Tech Universe: Friday 28 February

By Miraz Jordan

The Theranos system though needs only a single drop of blood. Photo / Thinkstock
The Theranos system though needs only a single drop of blood. Photo / Thinkstock

BLOOD LOSS: Getting a blood test is no fun, especially as you watch several vials filling up with the stuff. The Theranos system though needs only a single drop of blood, even for hundreds of tests, from standard cholesterol checks to sophisticated genetic analyses. Because the process is automated the results are also faster, more accurate, and cheaper than current tests. Results can be available after 4 hours, even for tests like viruses where traditionally a culture would take several days. This system instead quickly measures the DNA of the pathogen.

POLYMER WASH: Throw the clothes in the washing machine, add washing powder and press the start button to get the water flowing and the cleaning started. It's a familiar process, but Xeros aims to change all that, by replacing most of the water and some of the detergent with polymer beads.

The beads can be used hundreds of times and reduce the amount of dirty water to be disposed of. The tumbling action of the beads cleans clothes as well as a standard wash then the beads are automatically extracted through the drum. Presumably since there's less waste water it will have a higher concentration of dirt. Will that have flow-on effects for waste water treatment plants?

RESULTS ON THE LINE: Diagnosing cancer can be tricky, but researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology developed a test that could make it easier, and that takes only an hour. The doctor injects nano-scale biomarkers into a patient's bloodstream. Those markers interact with specific proteins produced by cancer cells and fragments of the marker eventually find their way into the urine. Then the patient pees on a special test strip coated with antibodies that can detect the marker fragments. The strip then displays a line if cancer tissue is present in the body. At the moment the test strips have been successfully tested on mice, but commercial development for use with people shouldn't be far behind. That could make the test as easy as a trip to the chemist's shop.

WORTH A LISTEN: The tiny ReSound LiNX hearing aid does something new: it streams high-quality stereo sound from iPhones and iPads for phonecalls and listening to music without needing any extra hardware. Wearers can also use an app to set the volume, treble and bass, and use geo-tagging to assign and adjust to the acoustics of frequently visited places like home, work, favorite restaurants and more. The app will also help find the hearing aid if you misplace it. These advances come thanks to 2.4 GHz wireless technology, along with Bluetooth.

SHAKE THE PHONE: Researchers at the University of Wisconsin added zinc oxide nanoparticles to a common piezoelectric polymer material called polyvinylidene fluoride, so the material could harvest vibrations for energy. When they etched the film with spores the otherwise stiff material became more sensitive to small vibrations. The researchers say that with a material like this devices like cellphones could use vibrations as a power source. People with the shakes would never have to worry about a flat battery.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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