Tech Universe: Friday 7 September

By Miraz Jordan

New York City will be opening the world's largest ultraviolet drinking-water disinfection plant. Photo / Thinkstock
New York City will be opening the world's largest ultraviolet drinking-water disinfection plant. Photo / Thinkstock

LIGHTS ON THE WATER: New York City needs a huge water supply. After the water arrives in the catchment it must be treated to remove cryptosporidium, giardia and other pathogens. New York will soon open the world's largest ultraviolet drinking-water disinfection plant. The UV light alters the DNA of water-borne pathogens preventing them from reproducing. 56 UV units will process up to nine billion litres each day, complementing the chlorination that has long been used. So if UV light alters the DNA of pathogens what does it do to us? Nightclubbers beware. Scientific American has more.

MOVING CARPET: Very young kids with leg disabilities may be unable to move around freely, so the Japanese Magic Carpet has been designed to help them. The device is a small platform with wheels and castors that can move between 0.4 and 4.0 Kph by pressing a couple of large buttons. It can go forwards and backwards, left and right, or make a 360º turn on the spot.

One charge will take it up to 4 Km. The platform can carry up to 90 Kg so a carer could ride along too. The designers say this will also help children when they later move to an electric wheelchair. It sounds fun for any age. DigInfo TV has further details. Check out the video.

BED WHEELS: Panasonic's electric care bed, designed for use in nursing homes, combines a bed and a wheelchair. The wheelchair is built in to the bed which splits in two lengthwise. One half then folds itself into a seat shape, after pressing a button on the remote, and can be wheeled away. The idea is to do away with having to lift a patient between bed and wheelchair, and to reduce the number of care workers required in the process. That's a clever idea. DigInfo TV details.

WASTE FUEL: One complaint about biofuel is that it may divert crops better used for food. It's also relatively expensive. On the other hand, society spends a lot of time and energy processing human waste. South Korean researchers want to solve those two problems with a thermochemical process to convert lipids from sewage sludge into clean biodiesel. Biofuel requires lipids as a starting material, while sewage sludge the researchers studied produced 2200 times more lipids per gram of feedstock. Unfortunately sewage sludge may include contaminants, so the researchers developed a noncatalytic method of processing that converted about 98 per cent of the sludge lipids to biodiesel. Sewage sludge is cheap and readily available, after all. American Chemical Society explains.

CONE OF AVOIDANCE: Wind turbines catch wind to make electricity, but all too often the spinning blades hit and kill birds and bats that fail to see them. The Catching Wind Power device from Sigma Design in the US claims to have a solution. The enclosed device has no external moving parts. A cone catches incoming air and squeezes it to more than four times the pressure. That spins a turbine that generates power. The cones are large and easy for birds and bats to see and avoid. So long as they don't fly into the cone, of course. Treehugger elaborates. Video here.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

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