Tech Universe: Wednesday 30 January

By Miraz Jordan

The electromagnetic harvester takes surrounding energy and uses it to charge a normal AA battery. Photo / Thinkstock
The electromagnetic harvester takes surrounding energy and uses it to charge a normal AA battery. Photo / Thinkstock

TRAP A CHARGE: The world around us is full of electric charge. And if you're clever enough, as one German designer was, you can harvest that electricity for your own purposes. Dennis Siegel created an Electromagnetic Harvester device, around the size of a smartphone.

Simply place the device within the field, for example by a coffee machine or photocopier, to slowly charge a normal AA battery. I guess it doesn't really have a practical purpose, but it's a good lesson in awareness.

KEEPING COOL: The electricity supply is unreliable in India, especially out in the country, so milk is collected twice a day from farmers, rather than being chilled at the farm. That means farmers sell less milk. Promethean Power in the US has a thermal battery that will help. The thermal battery is a cylinder-shaped tank with a phase-change material inside that stays liquid to -3 degrees Celsius.

Farmers pour milk over the cylinder to cool it, and then it can stay cool for hours even when the power's off. When the power's on a fluid is pumped around the chamber to cool it even further. Being able to chill milk on site should save on collection costs too.

FEELING THE WEB: Deafblind people may communicate using the Malossi language where each letter of the alphabet is represented by touching a different part of the hand. The TacTic glove from Spain incorporates 26 motors representing the letters of the alphabet, as well as a keyboard, a charger and wireless modules. Wearers of the glove can connect with a smartphone or computer to surf the web, send and receive emails, read books and communicate with others who wear the TacTic glove too. Even video files with subtitles can be sent to the glove. Liberating!

HIP BUT NO HOP: The ReWalk Rehabilitation 2.0 exoskeleton is an expansion from the previous model. It fits a broader range of people and has a special learning mode to help new users adjust. People with spinal cord injuries still need crutches, but the exoskeleton helps them walk, stand, sit and go up and down stairs. The exoskeleton includes sensors and a computer, along with motorised legs that help with hip and knee movement. Let's hope that one day exoskeletons will be as commonplace as crutches.

SILENT RUNNINGS: The Zerotracer is an electric two-seater motorbike enclosed in a cabin. It can travel more than 500 Km on a single charge of the Kokam Lithium-Manganese battery and can recharge in 2 hours on a 3-pin plug. Top speed is around 250 to 300 Kph. At low speeds small stabiliser wheels are lowered on each side. In 2010 and 2011 the Zerotracer travelled 36,000 Km in 80 days from Geneva east to China, then from Vancouver to Mexico and then through Europe back to Geneva.

That's a very long way in a very small space.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

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