Tech Universe: Friday 14 February

By Miraz Jordan

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

MAGNETIC SOUNDS: Nanomotors are rocket-shaped metal particles, perhaps made from gold-ruthenium. Get them inside a living human cell, make them active and they could homogenise the cell's contents or act as battering rams to puncture the cell membrane. Either way, the cell could be destroyed, which could be a handy way to deal with cancer cells. One problem till now has been that until now the motors required toxic fuels and would not move in biological fluid. Researchers from Pennsylvania State University seem to have solved that problem with powerful ultrasonic waves that make the motors extremely active. The researchers are also able to steer the motors with magnetism. This finding could mean that in future such motors could perform various kinds of diagnoses and therapy. Yup, those are nanobots all right.

STRAIGHTEN UP: Graphene can conduct electricity 200 times faster than silicon, which makes it extremely interesting for those who make computer chips.

The problem is that when it's chopped up to fit on a chip it loses those conductive properties because of uneven edges. Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology found a way to grow graphene, rather than chopping up larger sheets. That led to smooth edges that channel electrons and better conductivity. Let's get those electrons flying right.

BLOWING IN THE WIND: The autonomous Tumbleweed robot is designed to help researchers gather data on the spread of deserts. The robot uses light sails inside a flexible steel frame to catch the wind to drive it across the terrain. The Tumbleweed's motion provides kinetic energy to power an onboard computer, sensors and motor. No data desert here then. Wired. Video:

FLY MY PRETTIES, FLY: The UK's top secret Taranis drone has successfully flown, possibly in Australia. The flights each lasted up to an hour. The Taranis is the prototype for Britain's first stealth combat drone. Its low profile and acute angles are designed both for speed and to avoid detection by radar. The craft, about the size of a small fighter jet and capable of carrying weapons, can fly without a pilot, but is usually controlled from the ground. Warfare becomes more remote every day.

INSIDE THE RAIL: You have trams whose wheels run inside rails, and trains whose wheels run on top of rails, but the new hybrid tram-train in Sheffield, England, has both. In 2016 the vehicle will arrive at the edge of Sheffield from Rotherham Parkgate via rail tracks and then switch seamlessly to run on tram tracks to the city centre. Passengers won't have to switch services, making for an easier journey. One problem is that trams often make tighter turns than trains so the hybrid vehicle has to have specially designed wheels to avoid derailing at junctions and corners. Similar systems have been used in Germany, New Jersey and Ottawa, but this will be the first in the UK. Simplifying travel for the passengers will definitely be a winner.

Miraz Jordan,

- NZ Herald

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