Tech Universe: Tuesday 23 July

By Miraz Jordan

Imagine a skateboard with four extra wheeles for going down stairs. Photo /  Thinkstock
Imagine a skateboard with four extra wheeles for going down stairs. Photo / Thinkstock

A NEW STEP IN SKATING: As skateboards go the Stair-Rover is an odd looking thing, with its 8 wheels, four each at front and back. The board's designed to adapt to the environment of cities, with all their variable surfaces, including concrete steps. And that's where the extra wheels do their job, as they bounce up and down independently and conform to the shape of each step. The boards weigh 5 Kg and are 88 x 27 x 15 cm. Now it's bumping instead of jumping.

SPARKS OF CHANGE: Around 66% of Peru's 24 million people have access to electricity, but that's changing for the better. The National Photovoltaic Household Electrification Program aims to bring solar energy to more than two million of Peru's poorest residents. 1600 solar panels have already been installed in the northeast of Peru, but more are planned.

The programme's aim is for 95% of Peruvians to have access to electricity by the end of 2016. It's a great goal to bring
power to all the people.

RINGS OF CHANGE: Chemists from the USA and Japan have synthesised the first example of a new form of carbon which consists of many identical pieces of grossly warped graphene. The molecules are known as grossly warped nanographenes. The new material contains exactly 80 carbon atoms joined together in a network of 26 rings, with 30 hydrogen atoms decorating the rim. It's more soluble than 2D nanographene and has a different colour. Let's hope it's also useful for something.

SPEEDIER LIGHT: Researchers at the University of Bath demonstrated that graphene could respond a hundred times faster than current materials when used as an optical switch. Such switches are an important part of communications systems such as the Internet as they convert signals into a series of light pulses. That could mean big increases in speed for telecommunications. We like faster comms.

SMOOTHING THE WAY: We have a long history of discovering that incredibly useful materials have their down side, with effects on the atmosphere, plants and animals, the oceans, and our own bodies. Graphene may soon be immensely valuable in electronic devices, solar cells, batteries, and medical devices. It's strong, flexible, stretchy, conductive, and self-cooling, and only a single atom thick. But that thinness is where danger lies. Brown University researchers found that graphene has jagged edges that can easily pierce and disrupt cells. That means if it finds its way inside our bodies, perhaps during manufacturing processes, it could do some real damage. It sounds like some polishing of the rough edges is required.

Miraz Jordan,

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