Tech Universe: Tuesday 24 April

By Miraz Jordan

Technicians in Australia have designed a heat-sensitive drone that will be able to detect when great whites are in the area. Photo / Thinkstock
Technicians in Australia have designed a heat-sensitive drone that will be able to detect when great whites are in the area. Photo / Thinkstock

SHARK EYE: One problem in West Australia is the number of people killed by sharks. Technicians in Perth, Australia, have designed a drone with a heat-sensitive camera that could be used to spot great whites. The images are streamed back to base in real time. When a heat signature is detected the drone can move in for a closer look. The Cyber Eye can fly 10 hours on just $25 in petrol, and is easy to control. The designers say it's much cheaper and more accurate than current helicopter and plane patrols. It sounds like an ideal task for drones.

DOTTY STORAGE: A team of Taiwanese and US researchers is using nanodots that can write and erase data 10 to 100 times faster than current products. Discrete silicon nanodots, each approximately 3 nanometers across, are arranged beneath a thin metallic layer. The researchers shine extremely brief pulses of green laser light on very precise portions of the metal to create a charge and write or erase data on the dot below.

This technique creates a stable and long-lived data storage platform. What would we do without lasers?

POLYSOLAR: German company Heliatek have developed a new kind of solar panel made of small, organic molecules deposited on polyester films.

The panels are flexible and lightweight and could be wrapped around the columns of a building or integrated into windows. The panels use short molecules called oligomers instead of polymers, which gives more control during manufacture. The panels convert 8 per cent of the energy in light into electricity, compared with 15 per cent for conventional silicon solar panels. But where there's low light and high heat they can produce more electricity. Lots of heat, but not much light: sounds like just the thing for Parliament.

STEPPING UP: DARPA's robotics challenge has one contender that can climb steps. The robotic humanoid from Boston Dynamics has two legs and only one arm, but can speed its way up a set of stairs. At this stage the robot seems to be only going up, not down again, but I guess some challenges take longer. Mashable. Check out a video here.

DRIFTING TIME: Spacecraft need to know the time so they can navigate correctly. At the moment timing signals usually bounce around between the spacecraft and Earth, introducing long delays. Nasa now plan to fly a Deep Space Atomic Clock that will allow a spacecraft to calculate its own navigation data in real time. Nasa expect the clock to multiply navigation and radio science data while reducing mission costs. The mercury-ion trap atomic clock drifts no more than 1 nanosecond in 10 days. I suppose there's no interplanetary time server to keep it accurate either.

Miraz Jordan, http://knowit.co.nz

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