RIPE OR NOT RIPE?: As fruits and other produce ripen they produce tiny amounts of ethylene. MIT have developed a sensor consisting of an array of tens of thousands of carbon nanotubes with added copper atoms and tiny beads of polystyrene. The sensor can detect those traces of ethylene and send data on ripeness to a scanner. Attached to cartons, the sensors could help suppliers and shop owners monitor the produce they're carrying or selling and make sure it's displayed before it's too ripe. Perhaps they could also use it to track the ripening process and tune up how they carry and store the fruit. Check out MIT News for more.
OIL SUBMARINES: Imagine a submarine only a tenth as wide as a human hair. Now imagine it has a surface that absorbs oil, from an oil spill at sea, for example. A team from the University of California has developed such proof-of-concept subs in the lab. The subs are propelled by bubbles created from internal oxidation of tiny amounts of hydrogen peroxide and can move very quickly. A swarm of such subs could gather droplets of oil and take them back to a collection point. Even ridiculous sounding ideas may have merit. BBC has more information.
MIDDLING SOUND: Hearing impaired people who use cochlear implants inside their ear still need to wear a microphone and other electronics outside the head. University of Utah engineers have prototyped a tiny microphone that could be implanted in the middle ear. The new system, once reduced in size and approved, would implant everything except a small charger inside the head. The implant works by using an accelerometer to detect vibrations in the bones of the ear and convert them to outgoing electrical signals that can then be rendered into sound. Ingenious. University of Utah explains.
SEA SAMPLER: Robots on Mars are busy sampling the rocks around them. But now an underwater robot is sampling the sea in Tasman Bay, to help protect local fisheries and producers. The Environmental Sample Processor has an Internet connection so researchers can send a command to collect a particular sample and results can be sent right back. The processor detects micro-organisms such as bloom-forming phytoplankton. It's what they do with the results that really counts. Cawthron Institute elaborates.
SUN BATHER: The Solar Orbiter from the European Space Agency should be ready for launch in 2017. The spacecraft will fly as close as 42 million km from the Sun — closer than the orbit of Mercury — while a thick heatshield will protect it. The temperature at that distance is around 500 degrees. Its mission is to study the solar wind, helping us understand the flow of charged particles in the solar system. The craft will carry 21 separate sensors. I have a few organic sensors I'd like to put in a sunny spot. BBC details. Solar Orbiter also has the info.
Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nzBy Miraz Jordan