Tech Universe: Thursday 18 July

By Miraz Jordan

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

5 BY 5: That last hard drive you bought may well have been a 3 terabyte monster, but researchers at the University of Southampton hope to increase that to 360 terabytes on a medium that can withstand heat up to 1000 C and last forever. The data is recorded via self-assembled nanostructures created in fused quartz, using polarised light to write files with a laser in layers of nanostructured dots separated by 5 millionths of a metre. The information encoding is realised in 5 dimensions: the size and orientation in addition to the three dimensional position of these nanostructures. The fives have it.

A FORK ON THE ROAD: The first thing you may notice about the Strassenfeger II, Querschläger II and Brandstifter II electric bicycles from Electrolyte is that instead of two front forks there is only one rather bulky fork. That fork though contains a 250 watt motor, 320 Wh battery pack and electrical controller that can drive the bike for between 60 and 100 Km at up to 25 Kph.

Having all that gear in the fork protects it from weather and dirt and also shaves some 10 Kg off the weight compared with similar electric bikes. You have to wonder why there's no right fork to spread the load.

SCOOTS AND LEAVES: The Belgian Be.e is a frameless bio-composite electric scooter, with a monocoque body made from plants instead of plastic and steel. The monocoque body's external skin supports the load without needing a frame or plastic panels. The even better news is that the flax and bio-resin used in the body are sustainable, lightweight and strong.

DOG DISCUSSIONS: The FIDO system is wearable technology for dogs. Imagine you're an emergency responder whose dog is searching rubble. Wouldn't it be useful if the dog could send back detailed messages such as that a person they've located is dead or alive? One early test device equipped a dog vest with an Arduino microprocessor and 4 different sensors. The dogs could activate the sensors to set off a tone by biting, tugging or just putting their mouth nearby. Next up is obviously to train the dogs to assess injuries too.

SENSOR ON A STICK: It's very useful to be able to sense and measure temperature and humidity in the environment, but if sensors are large, bulky and costly that's definitely a hindrance. Researchers in Japan have created a small, thin stick-on sensor that also costs comparatively little, and even powers itself. The devices include a highly integrated MEMS sensor, an antenna and a power generation and storage layer made from an organic semiconductor nanofibre that's still being developed. Each sensor becomes part of a wireless network that sends data to a central processor. Sensors can detect various environmental factors such as CO2, temperature, infrared light, dust, and even electromagnetic field strength. The question is though, what surfaces will they stick to, and will they too readily fall off?

Miraz Jordan,

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