Tech Universe: Monday 7 November

By Miraz Jordan

16 PROPS: The e-Volo team in Germany recently tested their first
electric multi-copter with a human flight. The flight lasted 1 minute 30 seconds. The e-Volo multicopter has 16 propellers and weighs 80 Kg including batteries. Onboard computers control most aspects of flight, so the pilot uses a simple joystick. It's a bit raw at the moment: the pilot on a chair balanced on a Swiss ball and surrounded by
propellers. I don't think the trendy crowd will pick this up.
e-Volo. Video here.

SPACE DOCK: China's Shenzhou 8 spacecraft and Tiangong 1 space station module have successfully docked in orbit for the first time. The docking was fully automated. In a couple of weeks the craft will separate and then dock again as another test of the procedures, then Shenzhou 8 will return to Earth. This is an important step in China developing a full space station. Discovery News.
Video here.

TRACTORS IN SPACE: When Nasa want to gather material in space or on another planet they use robot arms or passive collectors. But it would be much easier just to draw material in to the robot or craft, maybe via a tractor beam like the ones we've seen on Star Trek. That's why they're investigating laser beams.

In an atmosphere objects can be trapped in an area where two laser beams cross. In space they could perhaps use specially shaped laser beams which have proven their capabilities in lab settings. We just want actual tractor beams.
BBC.

GECKO TANK: The new small robot from Simon Fraser University in Canada is shaped like a tank, with treads to move it around. It can go straight up or down walls, or even over a cliff, transitioning from a horizontal surface to a vertical one. The Tailless Timing Belt Climbing Platform (TBCP-11) uses a special adhesive on its treads that mimics the dry, sticky toe pads of a gecko.

Adhesion depends on Van der Waals forces — weak but attractive forces that occur between molecules. It's like the homeopathy of stickiness — a little goes a long way. Simon Fraser University. Video here.

WIND CATCHER: People who complain about the noise of wind turbines may like to look at the Australian Eco Whisper Turbine. It has a new parabolic shape that its makers claim reduces noise while increasing efficiency. It also looks good and seems more compact. It's designed for sites such as shopping centres, airports and remote communities. It could be just one more dish on the roof. Renewable EnergySolutions Australia.
Video here.


- Miraz Jordan knowit.co.nz

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