Tech Universe: Wednesday 10 July

By Miraz Jordan

Imagine if you could capture smells like you would a photograph. Photo / Thinkstock
Imagine if you could capture smells like you would a photograph. Photo / Thinkstock

SMELLING SORTS: What if we could capture smells as easily as we capture photos, especially since they're so evocative? Designer Amy Radcliffe is working on a smell camera she calls the Madeleine. A funnel covers the object whose scent should be captured, while a pump sucks the air across an odour trap. The trap's made of a porous polymer resin that captures the volatile particles that make up the smell. Then a gas chromatography-mass spectrometer processes the particles and produces a graph-like formula that represents the smell. The precise odour can then be reproduced artificially, and the graph recorded for posterity. It'll be a while before this all happens in your smartphone though.

COOKED BY SUNSHINE: Here's one for the caravan: the SunOven. The SunOven is a small oven in a box, and with reflector panels to catch the sun.

Put the food in, close the glass door and point the insulated box towards the sun. Adjust the position every 30 minutes or so to allow for the sun's movement and after a while the food is cooked. Temperatures inside the box reach around 175 C. The direct sunlight is what counts, rather than outside temperature, so the oven can cook year round. The oven doesn't get hot on the outside and folds up to the size of a small suitcase. There's a new challenge for the TV cooking competitions.

EYES FRONT: It can be enormously useful to have a GPS in the car to help you figure out how to get to where you're going. Attaching it in the best place to see it can be a problem though. The Garmin HUD avoids that problem by projecting directions onto a transparent film on the windshield or an attached reflector lens so drivers can keep their eyes on the road. The HUD receives its navigation information from a Bluetooth-enabled smartphone, and displays turn arrows, distance to the next turn, current speed and speed limit, as well as estimated time of arrival. The smartphone or a Bluetooth connected speaker can also play spoken turn by turn directions. You still have to secure the projector to the dash though.

THE SUGAR SCAN: Medical workers may inject someone with radioactive material before an MRI scan to detect cancerous tumours. But radioactive materials are never a good thing, so how about if they could be replaced by sugar? Scientists at the University College of London realised that to sustain their growth tumours consume much more glucose than normal healthy tissues. Then they tuned an MRI scanner to be more sensitive to glucose uptake and found that tumours appeared as bright images on MRI scans of mice. This finding could mean people who need more scans than most can avoid the additional exposure to radiation. See, sugar can be good for you.

HOLE IN TWO: Imagine a window with holes in it. The holes let air in, but keep noise out, meaning inner city dwellers could enjoy fresh air without having to hear the traffic. South Korean researchers designed a sound resonance chamber that stops sound from passing through. The way sound moves within the chamber and small holes in the walls allows sound in but strongly attenuates it before it can get out. meanwhile the holes allow air to pass through freely. Tests using a wall of building blocks made in this way showed sound levels reduced by 20 to 35 decibels over a sound range of 700 Hz to 2,200 Hz. The researchers say that changing the size of the holes could tune the windows to screen out only certain frequencies, perhaps blocking out machinery noise while letting in the sound of the ocean. Now, about the car fumes for those inner city dwellers …

Miraz Jordan,

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