Tech Universe: Tuesday 5 February

By Miraz Jordan

Two wheels good; one wheel better. Photo / Thinkstock
Two wheels good; one wheel better. Photo / Thinkstock

GLIDING ON: The Solowheel is a gyro-stabilised electric unicycle. Apart from a couple of footpegs, it has a battery, the wheel, a stabiliser and a carry handle, but no seat. The wheel can carry to up to 16 Km at up to 16 Kph and weighs 11 Kg. The Lithium-Ion battery takes an hour to recharge. Two wheels good; one wheel better.

HULK SMASH: The T-Rex on its way to Christchurch isn't a dinosaur, but rather a huge truck that simulates an earthquake to reveal the properties of rocks and sediments below. The truck weighs 29,000 Kg and will pound and shake the ground to reveal which soils are more likely to liquefy, and which soils are more stable. It's a good old-fashioned technique: stomping hard to see if the base is solid.

LIGHT COOLER: Some cooling systems are bulky and use dangerous coolants and refrigerants such as liquid helium.

Now scientists at Nanyang Technological University have used lasers to cool a Cadmium Sulfide semiconductor from 20 degrees Celsius down to minus 20 C. This optical cooling system could have uses in computers, satellites, smartphones and even MRI machines, saving space, energy and harmful gases. Getting rid of the gases is good news for the environment, but how about the Cadmium Sulfide?

A BIT HARD: Is diamond really the hardest material in the world? A team of researchers created a material that may be harder: ultrahard nanotwinned cubic boron nitride. The secret's in the nanostructure, in that neighbouring atoms share a boundary and often mirror one another which makes the material harder to deform. The boundaries act like walls, so with each segment 3.8 nanometers wide on average there are more 'walls' than in other materials. Unfortunately hardness can really only be definitively established by using an even harder material to test it, so this may not be the last word in hard materials after all. If it is though, it's sure to find use in drilling for resources.

EVERY MOVE YOU MAKE: The US Army's ARGUS-IS is a 1.8 gigapixel video surveillance camera that can resolve details down to 15 cm from an altitude of 6 Km. The idea is to attach it to a drone and observe an area of 25 square kilometres at a time. The camera captures video at 12 frames per second so supplies 600 gigabits of data per second, or 6 petabytes per day, needing a supercomputer to process it all. It'll also need some pretty super software to actually make use of all that video data.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

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