Tech Universe: Monday 4 July

By Miraz Jordan

Orcas, according to Stanford researchers, are really good listeners. Photo / Thinkstock
Orcas, according to Stanford researchers, are really good listeners. Photo / Thinkstock

UNDERWATER EARS: Researchers at Stanford University used the sensitive hearing of Orcas as their inspiration for a very sensitive underwater microphone. The microphones include three diaphragms of different sizes to capture the range of sounds. Each diaphragm is a membrane about 500 nanometres thick with nano-holes to allow water through. A fibre optic cable shines light onto the diaphragm and the nature of the reflected light indicates sounds. The microphone has a sensitivity range of 160 decibels and can function at any depth. Except Orcas do it without fibreoptics, I presume. More details at Wired

RED LIGHT: University of Toronto engineers have created solar cells that capture a broad range of light waves that may in theory reach up to 42% efficiency. They use colloidal quantum dots to link a layer that harvests visible light with one that collects infrared to capture the sun's most energetic photons. Then we need to get real world efficiency up to the same level.

More information here.

INKY SUNSHINE: Engineers at Oregon State University have figured out how to print solar cells using inkjet printers. More commonly solar cells are created by adding chemical compounds to a substrate using vapour phase deposition. In that process most of the material is wasted. A compound called chalcopyrite is very efficient and can be printed like ink. The new process could reduce raw material waste by 90% and be much cheaper. Imagine a home printer for producing your own solar cells on demand - more information here.

SHOW OFF: Sony's HDR-PJ50 Handycam has one new little extra - a tiny projector so you can view your movies on the big screen. Sony claim it can project a 1.5 metre image on a wall. Stereo speakers and a digital amplifier handle the audio. Get ready for Reality video. Mashable has more.

SUB BOAT PLANE: Part plane, part boat, part submarine and part dolphin, the Seabreacher from Innespace is a water vessel like no other. It has a 1500cc engine, a watertight cockpit and six fins that allow it to cruise on or below the surface of the water and to launch six metres into the air. This two-seater craft, designed by New Zealander Rob Innes, includes GPS and LCD screens that show what's going on round the dorsal fin. Go play in the water. Details at Popular Science and video here.

- Miraz Jordan knowit.co.nz

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