Tech Universe: Wednesday 14 August

By Miraz Jordan

The OmniCam360. Photo / Fraunhofer HHI
The OmniCam360. Photo / Fraunhofer HHI

A GOOD ANGLE: The OmniCam360 is designed to be centrally placed at a concert or sports match so viewers can choose which camera angle they want to see. The 15 Kg device contains 10 cameras and uses a mirror system to shift the entrance pupils of the cameras to a common centre which gives all cameras almost exactly the same perspective. The images overlap slightly but software adjusts the final image to be seamless. Viewers can also choose to see a full panoramic view all around the camera. Watch the play and the audience at all the same time.

THE SKYRMION DRIVE: Sometimes scientists find great names for their discoveries. The skyrmion is a twisted vortex of atoms that may lead to more efficient computer memory. Current hard drives magnetise atoms a certain way so that each digital bit represents an on or off state. When the atoms are packed too closely though the magnetisations can easily become unstable and get scrambled.

Skyrmions are very stable and could store 20 times more data per unit surface than current hard disks. Unfortunately, while it's a breakthrough that researchers can create and use skyrmions at all, their efforts at the moment are not very reliable and require extreme cold. Every good idea has to start somewhere.

HOT SPOTS: Electricity without cables is still something of a dream but the Smart Universal Power Antenna may do the job. Fitted beneath a table is a network of coils which generate a magnetic field and induce electricity in a coil fitted in a device. But rather than affect the whole table top small antennas are used to create a magnetic field only directly beneath a receiver. The system could power cellphones, laptops, lamps and other small devices, as well as even medical devices implanted inside people.So, you'd need to lie on a table to charge up your pacemaker?

DOUBLE WINDOWS: A new transparent film could be used on windows, smartphones and other surfaces to harvest energy from the sun. The film has two layers of thin photoactive plastic solar cells, including a cell composed of a new infrared-sensitive polymer. Between them they absorb up to 80% of infrared light along with a small amount of visible light. All up the cells achieve a conversion rate of around 7.3%. There must come a day when that conversion rate is more like 73%.

WATER THE WINDOWS: Big windows bring lots of light, and maybe also lots of sunshine. Molecules in glass absorb the sun's infrared light, heating the windows, which heats the air inside the building. That could lead you to turn on the air conditioning, which in turn means paying more for electricity. When the human body gets hot tiny blood vessels near the surface of the skin dilate and help cool us down. A new system from Harvard could add a similar microfluidic circulatory system to windows. Water can be pumped through ultrathin channels in a thin sheet of clear silicone rubber on the window pane. The glass cools, the air cools and the air conditioning can stay off. Now the researchers need to check if such a system could in fact save energy if installed throughout a building. I wonder how easily the windows could spring a leak?

Miraz Jordan,

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