Tech Universe: Monday 19 August

By Miraz Jordan

Next time you go hunting, take a  camouflage bike with you. Photo / Thinkstock
Next time you go hunting, take a camouflage bike with you. Photo / Thinkstock

HUNTING, SHOOTING, BIKING: Off for a spot of hunting or fishing? Leave the four wheel drive at home and go by bike instead — the Cogburn Outdoors CB4 bike, to be specific. The camouflage frame, the black rims and handlebars, the fat tires will all be useful out there in the bush, while the gun and bow rack will carry equipment easily. Packing the game out again may be another matter.

IS THAT BACTERIA IN YOUR SUNSCREEN?: A bacteria in the Norwegian fjords can do something unusual: absorb long-wavelength UV radiation in the range 350-475 nanometres. That's the kind of radiation that's linked to malignant melanomas and skin cancer in humans, and current sunscreens can't filter it out. Now one company is extracting a light-filtering substance called UVAblue from the bacteria for use in future sunscreens.

Stay away from the anti-bacterial soaps then.

PLAYING FOR REAL: In the UK and Europe ash trees are dying off because of a fungus. Now researchers have created the Fraxinus game on Facebook where players match sequences of genetic letters represented by coloured leaf shapes. This sorts genetic information into matching sequences and pinpoints genetic variation in the tree or the fungus. Data from the game should help identify the origins of the disease and help researchers work out which trees are best to grow in future. Pattern matching for fun and research.

ALL FALL OFF: The pitcher plant's coating is so slippery that it repels water, honey and oil and resists bacteria and ice formation. Researchers at Harvard took that as inspiration when they created SLIPS, or Slippery Liquid-Infused Porous Surfaces. The coating makes ordinary glass tough, self-cleaning, and incredibly slippery. A newer version uses a tiny honeycomb pattern of glass coated with a layer of the same liquid lubricant used in SLIPS. The new coating is transparent and incredibly resistant to liquids of all kinds and to ice. It could be used to make scratch-resistant spectacles, self-cleaning windows or medical devices. That slipperiness must be a challenge in manufacturing.

SPIKED OIL: Oil spills are always hard to clean up. If the oil is spilled in water separating the two can be complicated. The Chinese Academy of Sciences looked to cacti needles for inspiration and came up with arrays of copper spikes. Conical spikes with a rough surface were able to catch micro-sized oil droplets in water. The rate of efficiency in separating the two substances is over 99%. Now they need to develop their research into a product. Nature is so inspirational.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

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