Tech Universe: Tuesday 15 November

By Miraz Jordan

Polaroid's new Z340. Photo / Supplied
Polaroid's new Z340. Photo / Supplied

VIRTUAL CLOTHES: Some British stores are experimenting with virtual mirrors in clothes shops. The mirror first records you as you stand in front of it. Then by using gestures you can 'try on' various clothes, capture images of yourself in the clothes and share the images with friends by email or Facebook. Hours of fun for you and your pals. Details at the BBC.

FORGET BLACK NIGHTS: What's really really really black? A new material from NASA that absorbs more than 99% of the ultraviolet, visible, infrared, and far-infrared light that hits it. The coating that does this trick is a thin layer of multi-walled carbon nanotubes positioned vertically on various substrate materials. Because it reflects almost nothing the material will be useful in sensitive detectors looking at the far universe as well as the Earth's surface, oceans or atmosphere. The black material will also be useful for cooling instruments in space because it helps radiate heat away. Wait, I thought black absorbed heat because it didn't reflect light.  Nasa has details.

RETURN TO PRINT: Polaroid cameras were big a few decades ago: snap the picture and a few moments later the photo would emerge from the camera. Now Polaroid have gone digital with their 14 megapixel Z340 Instant Digital Camera. 3x4'' prints are created with ink-free Zero Ink Printing Technology that embeds cyan, yellow, and magenta dye crystals in an advanced composite material. The paper appears white until the crystals are heated. The LCD means you can crop and add borders, then select which photos to print. Wait long enough and everything comes back. Polaroid has more, and there's video here.

SHEAR SOUND: Hot water, soap and a scrubbing brush are pretty good at cleaning things. It'd be good to do the cleaning with cold water and without the scrubbing brush and soap though. Researchers from the University of Southampton are working on an ultrasonic attachment for taps that uses less water and power than the equivalent pressure washer. The nozzle generates both bubbles and ultrasound. The bubbles create a shear force that effectively scrubs surfaces they contact.
Let the bubble do the cleaning. Details at the University of Southampton.

THIN SAVINGS: If solar cells are thin they cost less to manufacture.
The problem is thinner cells absorb less light so they don't generate as much electricity. Scientists at Caltech and Northwestern Universities have designed nanoscale wedges that strongly absorb blue light at the tip and red light at the base. The patterned films absorb an average of 70% of the light across the entire visible spectrum. Next they intend to apply the technique to solar cells. They also cost less to transport, put less strain on support structures and be easier to install. Technology Review.

-Miraz Jordan

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