SHARP AS SILK: Had to get an injection recently? Hurt much? Would it be better if the needle was tiny and made of silk? Engineers at Tufts University have created micro-needles from fibroin, the major protein in silk. The needles are 500 microns tall and 10 microns wide — 1/10th the width of a human hair. The needles penetrate the skin, but not far enough to reach the nerves. A patch of needles can release medication over time and without pain. There's great potential here
for spy thrillers. Scientific American has more.
SOLAR PAINTING: How about just painting solar cells onto your house? At the University of Notre Dame researchers used semiconducting nanoparticles to produce energy. The solar paint is easy to produce and could be easily applied to a surface. The paint contains nano-sized particles of titanium dioxide, coated with either cadmium sulfide or cadmium selenide and suspended in a water-alcohol mixture to create a paste. Brushed onto a transparent conducting material and exposed to light it generates power. At the moment it's only 1% efficient, but it's a good start. I'm waiting for the day when everything generates power we can use. University of Notre Dame has details, and there's video here.
CHEW MORE QUIETLY: In Australia termites cause up to $3 billion of damage each year, so it would be good to detect their presence early. Researchers at Edith Cowan University created a tiny wireless sensor that listens for chewing sounds. If it detects activity it can send an email or SMS with GPS data to a pest control firm. Could termites evolve to chew more quietly? More on the clever chomp detectors here.
SEAT LOCK: Researchers at the Advanced Institute of Industrial Technology in Tokyo want to stop people from stealing your car. Their anti-theft car seat contains 360 sensors that generate a 3D representation of the weight and weight distribution of the person sitting in it. A central laptop can match this pattern to authorised drivers. The system is apparently 98% accurate. So car thieves must
first disable the laptop. Details at MobileMag.com.
PHONE EATS PAPER: Wait. Don't throw that envelope in the recycling bin. Instead use it to top up your mobile phone battery. Sony have a prototype device that generates electricity by turning shredded paper into sugar. The sugar is then used as fuel. Drop shredded paper into a combination of water and cellulase enzymes, shake, add oxygen and more enzymes, and you have power. Quick: there's a market for a new style
of paper recycling bin. More at the BBC.
- Miraz Jordan knowit.co.nz