Tech Universe: Tuesday 10 September

By Miraz Jordan

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

BRAIN IN SIGHT: Yttria-stabilized zirconia is a ceramic used for dental crowns and hip joints. Now researchers at the University of California have made it transparent as well, which has opened up the possibility of a window in the skull. Why put a window in your skull? Well, if you have a life-threatening neurological disorder, such as brain cancer or traumatic brain injury the doctors may need to do repeated craniectomies. This window would allow the doctors to check what's going on without needing to drill holes in the head. It might pay to wear a hat on a sunny day.

HOLE IN ONE: Inserting an IV isn't as easy as it looks, and is especially hard with children. Doing it properly requires training, patience and sometimes several attempts. A semi-automatic handheld device from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem aims to make it much simpler. The SAGIV device uses infrared sights and other sensors to locate the vein then quickly inserts and withdraws the needle in one easy motion.

Further development should allow the device to be made small enough for emergency services to carry in their kit. Meanwhile it's a rather scary looking beast.

NEEDLE IN THE RED: For the sake of good health syringes should only be used once. There are many reasons though why they may be used repeatedly without being sterilised between times: poverty and accidents are two of them. The ABC Syringe developed at the University of Huddersfield is coated with an ink that reacts to carbon dioxide. Clean syringes are packed in nitrogen-filled packets. After the packet is opened and exposed to the air the syringe turns bright red within 60 seconds. The syringe costs only a fraction of a penny more than standard disposable syringes. The desperate will probably ignore the colour unfortunately.

GESTURES IN THE MIST: An image hovers in mid-air where a viewer can interact with it using two-handed gestures. A Displair unit projects digital images onto an aerodynamic layer of dry fog composed of ultra-fine water droplets. IR sensors and a camera make the interactivity possible. Where does all that extra moisture in the air end up?

WEIGHTS AT A STRETCH: Robots are often powered by hydraulics, and may be able to lift around half their own weight. But of course we want them to lift more than that. Researchers in Singapore are developing an efficient artificial muscle that could carry a weight 80 times its own and be able to extend to 5 times its original length when carrying the load. The prototype polymer-based artificial muscles are pliable, extendable and react in a fraction of a second, unlike the much slower hydraulics. Inspect that gadget.

Miraz Jordan,

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