Tech Universe: Monday 14 January

By Miraz Jordan

Some people would still prefer to ride rather than walk. Photo / Thinkstock
Some people would still prefer to ride rather than walk. Photo / Thinkstock

ROADRUNNER: Some spots are full of pedestrians with little road traffic. Examples could be shopping malls, universities, or large parking lots. Yet some people would still prefer to ride rather than walk. That's where Induct's driverless Navia vehicle comes in. It's a robot shuttle designed to carry up to 8 passengers. Laser range finders, cameras and a special software package let it move autonomously through the crowds. It recharges its Lithium-Polymer batteries at each stop through an instant induction recharging system.
Beep beep.

OUT OF HOT WATER: Panasonic's new thermoelectric material pulls electricity out of hat water as it runs through a pipe. The thermoelectric tube carries hot water while cold water cools the outside. Metal components with high thermal conductivity are stacked at an angle so heat flows from inside the tube to outside, while electric current flows along the tube.

A 40 cm section of pipe is enough to run a light bulb. The new material produces 3 or 4 times as much power as conventional systems. Put a stretch of this on the pipes coming out of your hot water cylinder.

BATTERY PACK: The Prieto 3D battery uses a real 3D structure to generate more power. Conventional batteries may stack 2D components, but they're slow to charge, lose energy quickly and need to be replaced often. Liquid electrolytes can also make them toxic and highly flammable. The 3D battery weaves the components together instead of stacking them, increasing the surface area and producing a very high density battery. It charges quickly, has a long life and produces more energy. A solid state electrolyte also reduces the risk of toxicity and fire hazard. Quicker to charge, more power, longer
life: the gadget makers should be in on this.

YO GO GADGET: Researchers at North Carolina State University may have the answer to the problem of gadget cables that just aren't long enough — they've made them stretchy. They filled elastic polymer tubes with a liquid metal alloy of gallium and indium which conducts electricity efficiently. Now the cables can stretch up to 8 times their original length while still charging gadgets. Inspector Gadget would be happy.

STILL THERE IN BLACK AND WHITE: In the UK householders have to pay to licence the TV in their house. Licences for colour TVs cost 3 times as much as for black and white TVs. But that's not the oddest factoid.
What's astonishing is that there are still more than 13,000 households licensing the old black and white TVs, down from 212,000 in 2000. New
Zealand did away with TV licensing fees back in 1999.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

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