Tech Universe: Friday 07 February

By Miraz Jordan

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

A NEW ANGLE: Crushing ice at sea is the job of an icebreaker. The Baltika has a different angle on it though: instead of ploughing bow-first into the ice it has an angled hull that lets it roll over onto the ice to crush it. Water and fuel are pumped between tanks below decks so the ship doesn't capsize. The oblique angle of attack lets the small ship create a wider path than a standard icebreaker — wide enough for a commercial vessel to follow it. The Baltika can break ice up to 60 cm thick. Rolling sideways would also let almost the full weight of the ship bear on the ice.

JUST ADD CARBON: 3D printers can print with various materials, but the Mark One by Mark Forged adds carbon fibre to the mix, along with fibreglass, nylon and PLA. The desktop printer automatically levels the printing bed and could be used for prosthetics, custom bones, tools, and fixtures.

Imagine one of these in your doctor's office.

JUST ADD HOLES: Glass is brittle which leads it to shatter, but scientists at McGill University found they can increase its strength by etching lines into it. Bones, teeth and seashells use a similar technique for strength. The researchers laser cut a wavy pattern of tiny holes into glass microscope slides and then filled the pattern with polyurethane. While the curvy patterns lock the glass together they also channel and absorb energy when the glass is stressed, meaning it doesn't shatter so easily. It's like perforated paper really: strongest where the holes are.

HOLE VIEW: When doctors use endoscopes they're aiming to get a good look inside the body, so the higher the resolution and definition the better. 8K video is extremely high resolution, but 8K video cameras tend to be large. In 2002 such a camera would weigh 80 Kg, ruling it out for many uses. By 2013 such cameras weighed only 2.5 Kg and they're expected to be only a third that size within a year or two. The Medical Imaging Consortium recently experimented with removing the gall bladder of a pig with the help of an 8K video endoscope. The extremely high resolution, stereoscopic effect and realism of the operative field makes it possible to see the boundaries of internal organs, tissue surfaces and fine sutures that are difficult to see otherwise. The endoscope can also be kept further away from what's being studied, reducing the risk of collision and damage. A better view should lead to more precise medical procedures.

WATER COLOURS: While paper is comparatively cheap the ink for inkjet printers isn't. If you're printing things off just to read them once that gets to be an expensive business. Chinese researchers have turned things around by developing a specially coated paper and then printing on it with water. So far, they've printed in blue, magenta, gold and purple colours, using water as a key that activates a dye molecule. After a day though the printing disappears and the paper can be repeatedly used again, perhaps as many as 10 times. The researchers are now aiming to be able to print in black. Take a good look at those bank notes.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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