Tech Universe: Monday 11 February

By Miraz Jordan

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

MARTIAN PIXELS: If you'd like to examine the surface of Mars in minute detail you could set up a space mission and travel there. Or you could download the high resolution image the European Space Agency has released. The image comprises 2702 individual swaths of the martian surface that together represent 87.8% of the entire planet. 61.5% of the entire surface is mapped at a resolution of 20 m per pixel or better. Some spots are missing because the relevant image was particularly affected by dust or atmospheric effects. The images were captured over around 10 years by the Mars Express craft, using a high-resolution stereo camera. Metre by metre we're filling in the picture of our solar system.

UP DOWN TURN AROUND: Ricoh's omnidirectional camera takes a full 360 degree panoramic image in one shot. Two fisheye lenses each cover 180 degrees of view. The prototype camera combines the 2 pictures, then sends them wirelessly to a tablet or smartphone. The image works like a regular panorama, but you can also see up and down, and if you zoom out, the image becomes a sphere.

FAR FLYING HORNETS: The Black Hornet Nano is more than just a toy helicopter. In the hands of British forces in Afghanistan it's a battery-powered mini-drone equipped with a camera that relays video and still images to a handheld control terminal. The 16 gram 10 cm drone can be piloted directly or programmed to follow co-ordinates using GPS at up to 35 Kph. The drones have a range of 800 metres and can fly for up to 30 minutes. That's quite a range.

UV MELT: Manufacturing processes sometimes need objects to be held in place temporarily, for example with a light adhesive. But separating them may require an unwelcome force. The adhesion strength of an organic substance developed by AIST can be varied by shining light on it. Shine green light on the substance and it solidifies, while under UV light, it gradually liquefies. The light doesn't heat or cool it, but only changes how liquid it is. The material is a weak adhesive, but the researchers hope to increase its strength. You'd think there would be medical applications for a substance like that too.

SHIVER THE TIMBERS: The hulls of ships accumulate bacteria that increase drag, reduce energy efficiency and block or clog undersea sensors. What's more, the biofilm may attract seaweed, worms, and mussels. One way to help prevent this build-up is to use toxic paints that kill bacteria but are bad for the environment. Now researchers at Duke University think that ships could shake the bacteria off, literally. They've developed a material that deforms in response to electricity. Flicking a switch could cause the coating to move and deform, shaking off bacteria and other organisms. So would it take a single big shake now and again or frequent tiny shakes?

Miraz Jordan,

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