Tech Universe: Monday 23 September

By Miraz Jordan

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

WATER ON: Researchers at the University of Sydney have developed a nanostructured material that hangs on to water droplets, even when it's turned upside down. Like some rose petals, the material causes water droplets to bead up in a spherical shape and then not drip off. This capability could help prevent problems with condensation in planes or speed up some medical tests. It could perhaps also be used to create surfaces that always stay dry and never need cleaning. Oh to never clean a window again.

WATER OFF: Water droplets on a camera lens are highly undesirable. Tokina's hydrophobic rain dispersion filter takes care of that problem though, with its special coating. The coating makes water spread evenly across the glass surface before flowing off. The filters will be available in various sizes, including those appropriate for professional broadcasters. That could work for keeping windows clean too perhaps.

A GOOD JOINER: Spanish scientists have created a polymer they can cut in half but which then joins itself back together again. When the pieces are put in contact again at room temperature they join up in less than 2 hours then can't be pulled apart by hand. The self-healing thermoset elastomers are simple and inexpensive to produce. That could be a very handy feature in a lot of products.

SMALL BUT PERFECT: Human organs don't always need to be full-sized. The Body on a Chip project puts several miniature 3D-printed organs on a microchip and uses them to model the human response to chemical toxins or biologic agents such as vaccines. A circulating blood substitute links the organs and allows researchers to introduce agents and therapies for testing. Then sensors on the chip report back with data. That beats testing on actual humans, that's for sure.

NO POWER WASTED: Sewage treatment plants tend to use a fair bit of electricity as they do their work. British researchers though have found a way to use microbes instead. What's more, the Microbial Fuel Cell also generates hydrogen gas. As sewage passes over carbon felting the microbes strip off electrons and transfer them to an anode, creating electricity. Remaining hydrogen ions migrate to a cathode, reunite with electrons and are topped up to create a gas. While the hydrogen gas is currently released it could be captured and used as fuel. The system works on raw sewage at ambient temperature and potentially generates more energy than it uses. There really is no such thing as waste.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

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