Tech Universe: Friday 25 November

By Miraz Jordan

Lego to the rescue - UNICEF 'bricks' will come filled with food and water, but can be filled with dirt and used to make a shelter. AP Photo/Sarasota County Sheriff's Office
Lego to the rescue - UNICEF 'bricks' will come filled with food and water, but can be filled with dirt and used to make a shelter. AP Photo/Sarasota County Sheriff's Office

LEGO RESCUE: After a disaster people need food, water and shelter. The UNICEF Brick manages to combine all 3 into one neat package. Brick-shaped boxes hold food and water in compartments.

But once they've been consumed, the compartments can be filled with soil or sand and stacked to build a shelter. The boxes are shaped like Lego bricks, so when they're stacked they also lock together. If and when the bricks are no longer needed they can be re-used elsewhere. That's clever packaging. Inhabitat.

SERVER BATH: Servers generate massive amounts of heat and need careful cooling to operate effectively. Green Revolution Cooling reckon they can reduce power costs by submerging servers in a dielectric coolant.
Air is better at insulating than cooling. The liquid based on mineral oil has 1,200 times the heat capacity of air by volume.

In one case study by the company build costs were halved, as were annual power costs. Maintenance could be quite tricky though. HP Input Output.

ION TRAILS: Scientists at Northwestern University have created lithium-ion battery terminals that charge in 15 minutes yet hold that charge for a week. Even after 150 charges the batteries are still 5 times more effective than current lithium-ion batteries. Charge density is affected by how many lithium ions can be packed into the anode or cathode, while charge time depends on how quickly lithium
ions can move between electrolyte and anode. The new technique adds density by putting clusters of silicon between graphene sheets and creates intentional defects that provide shortcuts for ions, speeding up charging time. See, shortcuts can be a good thing. Northwestern University.

LED LENSES: Researchers at the University of Washington have succeeded in placing a single LED, powered wirelessly with RF, in a contact lens. The lens incorporates integrated control circuits, communication circuits, and miniature antennas. Of course, the idea is to increase the usefulness so the lens can eventually display data for the wearer. Such a lens could also include or monitor sensors, for example,
watching blood-sugar levels. One of the challenges is to use materials that aren't toxic in the eye. Wait for the typography aficionados to complain about contact lens fonts. IEEE Spectrum.

GLOWING METASTASES: Glow in the dark materials are pretty common, but they tend not to emit light in the near-infrared range. Now University of Georgia scientists have created such a material. It emits a near-infrared glow for up to 360 hours after only one minute's exposure to sunlight. This could be hugely important for medical diagnostics, solar energy collection and the military. One application could bond the material to cancer cells, allowing doctors to detect small metastases.

For military use it could provide light visible only to those wearing night-vision goggles. The material uses trivalent chromium ions as a basis, while a matrix of zinc and gallogermanate allow the light emissions to be long-lasting.

Ahh, trivalent and matrix — it must be good. EurekAlert!

Miraz Jordan,

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