Tech Universe: Thursday 17 November

By Miraz Jordan

The European Synchrotron Radiation Facility hopes to discover more about the earth's core with an X-ray beam called ID24. Photo / Thinkstock
The European Synchrotron Radiation Facility hopes to discover more about the earth's core with an X-ray beam called ID24. Photo / Thinkstock

HEAT AND LIGHT: The inner core of the Earth lies 2500 km beneath the surface. It's probably as hot as the surface of the sun and the pressure is 3.5 million times that at the surface. But we don't really know much about it. A team at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in France hope to change that with an X-ray beam called ID24 at Grenoble in France. For microseconds the laser beam will heat materials the size of a speck of dust to incredibly high temperatures for study, measuring a million results per second. The beamline will be opened to researchers around the world in May 2012. Such tiny measurements for such enormous results. The European Synchrotron Radiation Facility has more here.

FLAT LIGHT: Columbia University designers developed the inflatable LuminAID solar light. Essentially it's a sealed plastic bag with a solar panel and a light. Turn it on, then blow into the valve to inflate the bag and disperse the light. The thin film solar panel fuels two coin cell rechargeable batteries.

The LuminAID can charge fully in six hours to provide five hours of light. It packs flat so large quantities of the lights could be easily and cheaply shipped to disaster areas. A brilliant simple design. LuminAID and video here.

175 DEGREES OF SEPARATION: Some surfaces are coated with substances like Teflon or wax to make them resist water or oil — hydrophobic or oleophobic. A new coating, NeverWet, claims to be superhydrophobic. It doesn't just resist liquids — they simply roll right off. Teflon, for example, has a contact angle of 110 degrees. A perfect sphere would have an angle of 180 degrees. NeverWet claims to create droplets with an angle of between 160 and 175 degrees. The videos are certainly convincing. More details here and video here.

SLIPPERY SLOPE: A Slippery Liquid Infused Porous Surface is what the pitcher plant uses to trap insects. The insects land on a leaf and slide down because the plant locks in a layer of water, creating a slick coating. Using that technique as a model, scientists at Harvard have created a material that has the same super-slippery properties. They created a nanostructured porous material with a lubricating fluid that repels a wide variety of liquids and solids. The material is simple and cheap to manufacture. Hmmm, this sounds familiar. More at here.

DRY INSIDE: So you wrecked your smartphone by putting it through the wash? HzO has what you need for your next phone. Their WaterBlocked nano-scale film protects the electronics from water with special water-repelling properties. Water can still enter the device, but the vapour-coating on the electronics protects them, and prevents corrosion. The phone can even still work underwater. All by the power of a 'magic' coating. More details here and video here.

- Miraz Jordan

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