Tech Universe: Thursday 10 October

By Miraz Jordan

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

BOOKS ON DEMAND: In Uganda books can be quite scarce, making it hard to give kids the chance to improve their literacy. The Everywhere Library though let anyone with even a basic mobile phone download books for free. Each week for 4 weeks newspaper ads provided codes for specific titles. After entering that code on the phone the book downloaded free of charge. Of course, reading the book on a tiny non-smartphone screen is the next challenge.

FLOAT THE HOME: Parts of The Netherlands lie below sea level. So why not build a floating apartment complex? The Citadel, when complete, will float on 2 metres of water. The main deck will be a floating heavy concrete base 80 x 140 x 3 metres. The base will support 60 luxury lightweight apartments and a parking lot. Units will be wrapped in aluminium and topped with a green roof.

A bridge to the mainland allows for easy road access. The designers estimate these building will be 25% more energy efficient than those on land. The whole structure will be heavy enough so that residents don't notice any movement in the water. But the glare from the aluminium wrapping will be interesting.

SOLAR POWER, SORT OF: Solar panels are good, but night time and cloudy weather rather reduce their usefulness. So how about putting the solar panels on geostationary satellites 36,000 km above the Earth and beaming energy down to receiving stations via lasers or microwaves instead? The Space Solar Power Systems project in Japan aims to launch a successful space-based solar power system by 2030 and is now working on that energy transmission problem. Lasers from space, eh.

WALKING ON SUNSHINE: You tend to think of solar panels being mounted on a roof, if they're not going to be up in space. At the Virginia Science and Technology Campus though 10 square metres of solar panels have been laid down as part of a walkway. 27 slip-resistant semi-transparent walkable photovoltaic panels extend an existing public footpath. The walkable panels have a combined average of 400 watt peak capacity — enough to power 450 LED pathway lights below the panels. Which is all very pretty, but perhaps also rather pointless surely.

DIESEL DEODORISER: Honeybees are an essential part of our foodchain as they pollinate crops. They have a very sensitive sense of smell that helps them find just the right flowers to feed on. Research has shown that diesel exhaust can severely interfere with that sense of smell. Lab experiments showed bees finding the right smell 98% of the time until diesel fumes removed key chemicals from the odour within a minute of exposure. After exposure to diesel the bees found the right smell only 30% of the time. There's another reason to find alternative fuels. The Guardian.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

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