Tech Universe: Friday 5 October

By Miraz Jordan

To find out what the Earth's mantle is made of - and how it works - geologists plan to drill 6 km down beneath the seafloor to reach it. Photo / Thinkstock
To find out what the Earth's mantle is made of - and how it works - geologists plan to drill 6 km down beneath the seafloor to reach it. Photo / Thinkstock

BIT BY BIT: An international team of geologists plans to drill 6 km down beneath the seafloor to reach the Earth's mantle. They will use 10 Km long drill pipes to bore a 30 cm hole through ultra-hard rocks. Their mission will start out in the Pacific Ocean as the Earth's crust is at its thinnest under the sea. Each drill bit has a lifespan of only 50 to 60 hours. The mantle makes up 68 per cent of the Earth's crust, yet we have little idea what it's made of or how it works. Samples from this drilling project should help us understand more about our planet. That's dedication: changing out drill bits every 50 hours. CNN details.

THE NEW BLACK: If you make solar cells from black silicon they absorb the infrared radiation that makes up around a quarter of the sun's light. Ordinary solar cells can't do that. Black silicon is made by blasting pulses of laser light at standard silicon. Researchers at the Heinrich-Hertz-Institut have successfully built prototypes of black silicon solar cells.

They aim to use such cells to increase the efficiency of commercial solar cells. Waste not, want not. Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft explains.

SUN TRAP: Sharp's new transparent solar panels can be mounted on balconies or skyscraper windows without blocking the view. Each black panel is made of laminated glass infused with photovoltaic cells. The panels aren't very efficient, but then they don't need to be on the roof either, meaning more of them can be used. If used on skyscraper windows, the panels could also help cool offices by blocking heat from incoming sunshine. In this case quantity beats quality. CNET has further info.

HAPPY IN A CUBE: The micro compact home is designed for those who are happy with minimal living space. Each cube is 2.6 metres on a side, and packs in a kitchen area, double beds, storage space, and a shower and toilet cubicle. The cube has a timber frame covered with anodised aluminium. It's insulated and has double-glazed windows. Cubes can be joined together for more space and recycled if you have no further use for them. You'd need a fair bit of outdoors out the door though. M-CH has the details.

MELTING MOMENTS: Electronics can be very handy in medicine, but you can't easily use them inside the body. Imagine though, if your doctor could implant an electronic device that would simply dissolve away once it was no longer needed. Such a device could act as a programmable bactericide to help heal a wound, for example. Now researchers are working on a device that melts away in liquid. The ultrathin sheets of silicon and magnesium are encapsulated in silk, a biocompatible material. Add liquid and the device just melts away. Cue the Mission Impossible theme music. DARPA elaborates. Video here.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a4 at 22 Aug 2014 05:02:42 Processing Time: 42ms