Tech Universe: Thursday 6 December

By Miraz Jordan

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

STOPPING POWER: The Aggie Bus from Utah State University runs on electricity. But it doesn't need overhead wires, huge heavy batteries, or to spend hours at base recharging. Instead it recharges wirelessly when it stops to pick up or set down passengers. The bus carries a prototype device that transfers power at greater than 90% efficiency from the power grid in the ground to the relatively light-weight battery. The bus can be up to 15 cm off target yet still charge. In a perfect world passengers at the stop could charge up their gadgets wirelessly while they wait too.


WASH AND BLOW DRY: You know the routine in public bathrooms: wash your hands at the sink, shake water all over the floor and then wave them around in hot air to dry them. Dyson have filed a patent that could literally take several steps out of the process. Their idea is a tap that produces water when you place your hands beneath it so you can wash them. Then the tap has extra ducts coming off the sides that blast warm air to dry your hands after washing.

That's an excellent idea, so long as there are enough sinks so people don't leave without washing their hands at all.

SOFT PLASTIC LIGHTS: The field-induced polymer electroluminescent lights from researchers at Wake Forest University don't flicker, don't buzz and don't shatter. They do give off a soft white light and are long-lasting though. A polymer matrix blended with a small amount of nanomaterials converts electric current into light. The polymer can be made in any color and any shape, so can replace both commercial and household lighting. The lights are twice as efficient as compact fluorescents and about the same as LEDs. The ability to make the lights in any shape should lead to some interesting creative lighting.

WASTE NOT WANT NOT: Ghana has insufficient electricity and a surplus of sewage — they dump 1,000 tons of sewage every day into the ocean by the capital city. So now they're building a fecal sludge biodiesel plant to help solve both problems at once. Researchers say biodiesel from sewage sludge is cheaper than that made from algae or soy beans. The plant will process the sludge and turn it into fuel based on the fat content. Related: don't go swimming in the sea by Accra.

HOT CHOCOLATE: If you're the kind of person who might have a chocolate bar in their bag, you know the frustration of pulling it out on a summer's day to find it's all melted. Cadbury have a way to solve that
problem: chocolate made in their new process stays solid in temperatures up to 40C. The temperature-tolerant chocolate is made a little differently — they break down sugar particles into smaller pieces, reducing how much fat covers them. The downside? The chocolate doesn't readily melt when you put it in your mouth. Well, that should make it last longer.

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