Tech Universe: Monday 24 June

By Miraz Jordan

The SolePower shoe insole charges portable electronics while you walk. Photo / Thinkstock
The SolePower shoe insole charges portable electronics while you walk. Photo / Thinkstock

STEP UP: How many ways are there to generate electricity? A lot, obviously. Now add one: the SolePower shoe insole that charges portable electronics while you walk. The generating device is built into a standard insole. The charging cable can be threaded with the laces and a small battery can be worn around the ankle or attached to the top of the shoe. As you walk or run the battery charges. When you need to charge your phone or other device plug it in to the battery. Nice: now a long walk with GPS active on your phone needn't leave you with a dead phone at the end.

CHEMICAL WARS: The human body is full of sodium and potassium, while computer devices use a lot of silicon. Unfortunately those chemicals don't mix well, making it tricky to use silicon based devices such as sensors in and around humans. Such sensors could be particularly useful, for example, in detecting whether a patient is likely to reject a newly transplanted organ.

Now researchers at Ohio State University have found that an aluminium oxide coating can protect a silicon sensor inside the body for up to 24 hours. Unfortunately the body still sees the coating as a foreign object, but it could be a short-term solution that makes some medical tests possible. That's a little progress that could make a lot of difference to some people.

ARMOURED PHONE: Applying a plastic screen protector to phones and tablets has always been a hassle and they tend to reduce image quality. Liquid Armor is a nanotech coating that bonds to the surface at the molecular level, making it more resistant to water, dirt and scratches. So why aren't manufacturers already coating screens with this?

A TWIST ON CORK: How to seal up bottles of wine? There's the screw cap, or the cork you have to take a corkscrew to. Soon, though, there will also be the screw cork that has a thread matching a thread on the inside of the bottle top. Twist it out, and then twist it back in to save the rest of the wine. The Helix cork and bottle create an airtight seal and are the product of 4 years of testing and research. Let's drink to that.

BIG GREEN: The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has produced an interactive cloud-free map of the world's vegetation. The map is created from satellite data. Four of the 17 recorded channels generate 2 terabytes of data each week, and each week's 80,000 x 40,000 pixel image is around 13 gigabytes in size, with a resolution of 500 metres per pixel. Pixel by pixel analysis of vegetation changes from week to week may give early warning for outbreaks of drought, hazardous fire conditions, or even when malaria may break out in Sub-Saharan Africa. I'm sure the big agencies will be using that map regularly.

Miraz Jordan,

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