Tech Universe: Tuesday 10 July

By Miraz Jordan

DAM HUGE: China's Three Gorges dam has now been fully connected to the power grid. The dam has a total capacity of up to 22.5 gigawatts. That's more than 5 times the capacity of Britain's largest power station. The Three Gorges dam is the world's largest hydropower project, but it displaced at least 1.3 million people and increased earthquake and landslide risks in the region. Those are massive costs. The Guardian details.

OFF-SHORE WIND: A 54 metre tall floating wind turbine off the coast of Portugal provides 2 megawatts — enough energy to power 1300 homes. The turbine is assembled on land and then floated into position where it's anchored in the same way as off-shore oil rigs. The WindPlus consortium hope to secure enough funding for another 5 turbines. Floating them off-shore means they can be out of sight from land, but then the costs of transmitting the power ashore via an undersea cable increase. Having the source of electricity in sight could be a good reminder of the costs of the power we use. CNN has more.

IN THE DARK: Dark matter is all mysterious and unknown. It's so mysterious that it can't even be directly seen, but only deduced by perhaps noticing how it bends light. But it seems dark matter may be hanging around Abell 222/223, a galactic supercluster system in the constellation Cetus.

Astronomers analysed the observable matter that exists in the gas cloud between the two parts of Abell and concluded that a dark matter filament makes up the rest. They base their conclusion on the way light warps thanks to gravitational lensing. Ordinary matter between the two parts of Abell accounts for only 9% of the warping. It's a bit like taxes really: you know your paycheck should have a lot more in it., and income tax accounts for what's missing. PhysOrg explains.

TITANIUM SCRUB: If you've ever taken the scrubbing brush to outdoor furniture you'll be glad to hear that in future a spot of titanium dioxide may save you the bother. Scientists at Fraunhofer Institute incorporated titanium dioxide molecules into the plastic used in garden chairs. When the UV portion of sunlight strikes the chairs an electrochemical reaction produces free radicals that kill off bacteria, fungi and similar organisms. The treated chairs stayed clean longer. Now they're working on applying this finding to outdoor paints, glass and other surfaces. Cleaning things with a bit of sunshine sounds good to me. Fraunhofer Institute has further information.

RADIOACTIVE BRA: US researchers hope to save women the risk and discomfort of regular mammograms with a wearable breast tumour detector. Tumours give a clear and well-defined signal with this detector. The flexible and wearable planar microstrip antenna system is optimised to work in direct contact with the skin. Eventually their work could mean a bra that that uses non-ionising radiation to detect cancerous breast tissue. That has to be better than a mammogram squish. EurekAlert! elaborates.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

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