Tech Universe: Friday 12 August

By Miraz Jordan

GOT SLURRY?: Massachusetts Institute of Technology have a way to make more of rechargeable electric car batteries. Most of the weight in those batteries is just structure, and doesn't actually generate power. The new batteries use a slurry of tiny particles of a lithium compound mixed with liquid electrolyte. The flow of slurry across a membrane causes a current. Researchers estimate it can create 10 times more power per unit volume than conventional batteries. Batteries could be recharged by replacing the slurry in a couple of minutes, or with an electric current. Convenient: buy a can of slurry if you run out of juice on the road. New Scientist has details.

TERMINAL POD: A shuttle bus from one airport terminal to another is so clunky. You have to wait till it arrives, crowd on with everyone else, stow luggage, crowd off again… At London's Heathrow Airport they've introduced small driverless electric cars instead that follow a dedicated guideway. Key in your destination on the screen then sit back and relax. At the other end a video will show you how to get from the pod to your gate. At the moment the pods operate between Terminal 5 and a couple of parking lots. Quiet, comfortable and spacious — it may be the best part of your trip. New York Times writes it up here and video here.

NO SMALL MATTER: The Payload for Antimatter Matter Exploration and Light-nuclei Astrophysics is a satellite that's been orbiting the Earth for the last 5 years. Part of its mission was to find antimatter, and it seems to have achieved that goal. In the first 2 years it detected 28 anti-protons — three times as many as it should have randomly encountered. That suggests that there's actually a thin band of antimatter around the planet that could be tapped into for medical or other applications. They may need to speed up the rate of harvest though. Details at Wired.

OTHERS STOLE THIS: One problem for law enforcement is trying to make sense of an ever growing mass of data. Tel Aviv University in Israel reckon they can use algorithms to sift such data and predict where criminals may be. They're developing high-powered context-based search algorithms to analyse digital data on-the-fly. They may for example connect emails, phone calls and credit card transactions to create a probability map of a suspect's location. They see it as similar to the purchasing suggestions Amazon make if you buy a book online. The crooks would love this: if you liked stealing this Audi, you may also like to steal a BMW… American Friends of Tel Aviv University reveals the plan.

DIAMONDS TO PLOWSHARES: Diamond-like carbon coatings can significantly reduce friction. At the Frauenhofer Institute in Germany, researchers are discovering that using the frictionless coating on ploughing equipment could save a lot of fuel. The coating is also very hard and can protect equipment, making it more durable. Who said farming wasn't a high-tech industry? Frauenhofer Institute has details.

- Miraz Jordan

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