Tech Universe: Tuesday 13 February

By Miraz Jordan

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

GREEN BEER: The Alaska Brewing Company is being a bit clever and using its own brewing process to power the brewery with a unique boiler system. A furnace burns the waste accumulated from the brewing process, creating steam to power the majority of the brewery's operations. Previously they shipped the spent grain out at high cost to be used for other purposes such as stock feed. The spent grain steam boiler should offset the company's yearly energy costs by 70%. That's a nice bit of almost perpetual motion there.

LIGHT TOUCH: Epileptic seizures range from the minor to the incredibly disruptive and dangerous. Although many people are able to control their seizures with drugs, around 40% of people with epilepsy can't control the seizures at all. Now researchers at the University of California have succeeded in controlling seizures in mice by using an EEG-based computer system. When the system detects a seizure it activates thin fibre-optic strands implanted in the brain.

The light turns on certain proteins that stimulate or inhibit specific neurons in the brain and so arrest ongoing electrical seizure activity. The research with mice could lead to better ways to help people with uncontrollable seizures. That's some skilled brain manipulation.

MONITORING THE MONITORS: TV programmes often have security guards watching banks of screens that show what carefully placed cameras see. When guards spot a problem they take action. Researchers at Universidad Carlos III of Madrid have just made that kind of system smarter by having software analyse the images in real time. Anomalies, such as a vehicle moving in the wrong direction, set off an alert for a human to investigate. They say the system could be used for public and road safety and will work with existing surveillance cameras. Which is all fine, so long as it's someone else the cameras are watching.

ROSE TINTED LENSES: O2Amps glasses enhance our view of oxygenated blood beneath the skin. That can help medical staff identify veins or detect bruising. One variant though, with Oxy-Iso lenses, may be able to help people who are red-green colour blind. Tests so far are producing positive results. The lenses hinder the perception of yellows and blues through at the expense of enhancing reds and greens, so may be dangerous for driving. Solutions are just never that easy.

ISLAND OF THE SUN: The Swiss are building 3 islands in Lake Neuchâtel. Each island is 25 metres across, contains 100 photovoltaic panels, and serves as a laboratory to demonstrate the efficacy of floating concentrated solar power plants. The power generated by each island will be sent via cable to the electricity grid on land. Those PV panels have to go somewhere, so why not on a lake?

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

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