Tech Universe: Tuesday 18 February

By Miraz Jordan

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

CUTTING EDGE: Surgeons removing cancerous tumours must cut carefully to remove cancer cells while leaving healthy cells intact. Even with high-powered magnifiers it's hard to spot cancer cells. Special glasses from Washington University will make it easier. The glasses use video, a head-mounted display and a targeted molecular agent that attaches to cancer cells, making them glow when viewed with the glasses. Tumours as small as 1 mm in diameter can be spotted with the aid of the glasses. That's a great boost to precision and accuracy.

CELL BLOCK C: Some researchers have been printing living cells with what amounts to an inkjet printer. But that technique leaves many of the cells damaged or dead. Scientists at Houston Methodist Research Institute are taking a different approach. Their method of Block-Cell-Printing not only leaves almost 100% of the cells alive but also lets the researchers use many different cell types.

BloC-Printing guides living cells into hook-like traps in a silicone mould. Cells flow down a column in the mould, past trapped cells to the next available slot, eventually creating a line of cells. When the mould is lifted away, the living cells remain behind.

AT A PINCH: The tubeless bike tire from Schwalbe has two valves instead of the more usual one. One valve allows you to inflate the chamber closest the rim to a high pressure. That keeps the tyre tight to the rim and provides a buffer for hits that could cause punctures. Meanwhile, the other valve is for the outer chamber which can be inflated to a lower pressure to reduce rolling resistance over uneven ground and provide greater traction. No tube, but twice as much pumping.

CLOTHES MAKE THE SKATER: At this year's Winter Olympics the US speed skating team are wearing heavily designed Mach 39 suits. The athletes weren't just measured in the usual way, but instead wore motion capture sensors while being tracked while skating. The data was used to create fibreglass mannequins in various poses that underwent tests in wind tunnels to discover how different materials and designs affected air flow. The results shaped the design of the suits which used moulded polyurethane, different materials and tiny dimples in the fabric to modify airflow. Meanwhile, in the actual event, it seems vents at the back to allow for airflow may be slowing the athletes down. Where does technology end and athleticism begin?

DEAD AHEAD: That GPS navigation system in your car can be very helpful, except when the signal drops in dead areas. That's no longer a problem with the u-blox 3D Dead Reckoning chip. The chip uses accelerometers, gyroscopes, and speed sensors to calculate the exact location reached since the last GPS data was received. It measures direction, speed and distance travelled. That's a time-honoured method of dead reckoning that could come in very handy.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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