Tech Universe: Tuesday 19 November

By Miraz Jordan

The SeaOrbiter; part submarine, part ship. Photo /  SeaOrbiter
The SeaOrbiter; part submarine, part ship. Photo / SeaOrbiter

SEE THE SEAS: A wandering International Oceanic Station that drifts on the oceans providing a base for research and exploration — that's the idea behind the 58 metre high SeaOrbiter. Part submarine, part ship, it will carry a crew of 22 who can stay aboard for long periods. The SeaOrbiter will be able to deploy exploration devices and divers and make it easy for researchers to work on long duration projects. Tests in simulations found the SeaOrbiter couldn't be knocked over even in severe storms. The idea is to put a SeaOrbiter in all oceans and the major seas to create a permanent research network similar to the International Space Station. Vertical wind turbines and solar panels will help power the vessel. Space gets a lot of attention; it might be a great idea to study the seas too.

HOT METAL: Personal 3D printers tend to use plastic, but the Mini Metal Maker aims to add metal to the mix.

The machine extrudes hot metal clay, composed of metal flakes mixed with a binder and water. As the clay cools it dries and builds up layers of material. Finally the object is fired in a kiln which removes both binder and water to leave a metal object. The printer's not really precise enough for fine machine work, but would be of interest to designers, jewellery makers and hobbyists. Objects can be bent, filed, polished, drilled, soldered and even used to conduct electricity. The printer handles various metals including copper, brass, gold, silver and steel. That's another one for maker groups to explore.

NET OIL: Imagine you're on a ship at the site of an oil spill. Now imagine you could throw a net overboard to break down that oil, leaving biodegradable compounds in its place. Scientists at Stony Brook University have created that net in the form of a photocatalytic nanogrid made from copper tungsten oxide. Once the net has done its work it can be used again for another spill. The catalyst uses the whole solar spectrum to break down hydrocarbons in water. What's more the nets actually assemble themselves during the manufacturing process. The creators speculate that a similar product and process could be used in future for washing clothes without needing water. How long though does the oil breakdown take?

A FEW HOURS KIP: The Nine Hours capsule hotel in Kyoto is an inexpensive but minimalist place to stay. It offers separate lifts and separate floors for men and women, and is a place to sleep rather than to stay for a holiday. The suggested length of visit is 9 hours: enough time to get ready for bed, sleep and get ready to leave again. A Panasonic-built sleeping system modulates the light to lull you to sleep and wake you up at a set time. Sounds perfect if all you need is a safe place to grab a few hours rest.

LIGHT UP THE NIGHT: If you just need to see the way from the tent to the toilet block at night then a torch from the supermarket should do the job. But if you have sophisticated needs for lighting things up at night and cash to spare then you may want to look at the GoBe. The torch comes as a handle with interchangeable heads that provide red light for night vision, white light, a spot or a wide beam and a blue light for exciting phosphorescence on the sea at night. A USB rechargeable li-ion battery can provide light for up to 54 hours at up to 700 lumens and even 120 metres below the sea. Air cooling helps the torch run longer too. 700 lumens should make things pretty clear.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

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