STEGOSAURUS TURBINES: Dinosaurs may have gone extinct, but they had some good ideas. It seems that adding dinosaur-back shaped edges to wind turbines can increase their power and efficiency — enough to be worthwhile for power companies to consider. Siemens is increasing the area of blades by adding DinoTails — a serrated edge that resembles the back plates of a stegosaur. The serrations add lift and power, and reduce turbulence and noise. Other tweaks such as small fins, and small changes to the shape where blades join the main shaft also increase lift and efficiency. So long as Siemens don't pick up on the whole extinction meme. New Scientist explains.
MY SPACE FOR BIKES: Cycling at night? Worried about other vehicles crowding you on the road? The Bike Lane Safety Light clips to your bike and has all the usual functions of a red light. But switch it to laser mode and it displays a pair of lines beside you, marking out your space on the road.
LASER PAPER: Lasers need space between two mirrors so light can bounce back and forth, a gain medium to increase the amount of light, and energy. Or they used to. Usually lasers are made by pouring liquid crystal between two glass plates covered whose coating makes the molecules align in a particular manner. The new technique from a team at the University of Cambridge uses a polymer solution film to align molecules of liquid crystal printed onto them. The laser dots use the special optical properties of the liquid crystal to get rid of the mirrors, and a dye is added for gain. The low cost process could be used to create smart wallpapers or for display and lighting applications. Do not look directly at the wallpaper. BBC details.
SOUND SCAN: Ultrasound scanners use pulses of high frequency sound to build up a picture on a computer screen. They're commonly used to scan pregnant women and generally cost tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars. That pretty much restricts their use to hospitals. On the other hand, an ultrasound scanner created at Newcastle University costs less than a hundred dollars and its output power is 10 to 100 times lower than conventional hospital ultrasounds. The handheld device works with any recent standard computer and plugs in via USB. The low cost and easy compatibility could make the scanner very useful in places where health care is often inaccessible. And probably many households too. Newcastle University elaborates.
SMELLOSCOPE: We humans can tell the difference between the smells of oranges and lemons, but making machines that can tell odours apart is tricky. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts developed a sensor array to detect microscopic levels of many different metastatic cell types in living tissue. In other words they can differentiate between different types of cancer thanks to distinct protein levels. Gold nanoparticles and green fluorescent protein quickly activate in response to patterns in the proteins in cancer cells. The nanoparticle array can be taught to recognise many healthy tissues, so it also recognises when something isn't correct. The new technique is very sensitive and accurate at detecting different types of cancer. Just like the nose of some dogs. KurzweilAI explains.
Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz