Tech Universe: Monday 10 March

By Miraz Jordan

Wheelchairhandles give a better grip when pushing a wheelchair. Photo / Wheelchairhandles.com
Wheelchairhandles give a better grip when pushing a wheelchair. Photo / Wheelchairhandles.com

HOLD TIGHT: Better hope the wheelchair you're pushing doesn't slip from your hands as you manoeuvre that steep slope. With the inexpensive and easily fitted Wheelchairhandles you'll have a much better grip. Most wheelchairs have horizontal handles, but the ergonomic Wheelchairhandles attach with 3 screws and provide a vertical hold that adds control and make it easier to push a chair uphill. The polymer handles can cope with more than 360 Kg of pressure. Sometimes great design is in the little things.

SKIING ON AIR: Cars have airbags, so why shouldn't skiers who can travel at more than 100 Kph? If sensors in the Dainese D-Air Ski backpack-like vest detect a crash then the vest inflates within 100 milliseconds to protect the wearer's chest, shoulders, collarbones and cervical vertebrae. . The vest uses an algorithm that differentiates between forces like a jump landing or hard turn and crash-level forces.

Accelerometers, gyroscopes and GPS all play their part. Cyclists could perhaps use something like that too.

LIGHT LIFT: The HAV Hybrid Aircraft is 90 metres long and can stay airborne for up to three weeks at a time, with inert helium providing much of the lift. The aircraft combines features of a plane, a helicopter and an airship and is likely to serve as a freighter, carrying tonnes of freight over difficult terrain. The airships seem to be back.

A CHEAP LOOK: What could you do with an expensive microscope? Identify giardia or malaria perhaps? All you really need is a correctly folded sheet of paper with a tiny lens, an LED and a watch battery, at a total cost of $1. Scientists from Stanford have devised such a microscope that can be easily printed on a sheet of card, then cut out and folded. It can magnify up to 2,000X, enough to see the parasites that cause malaria and other diseases. With certain coloured LEDs it can see specific proteins or other biomolecules labeled with fluorescent dyes. You don't even need a glass slide for samples, as sticky tape will do the job. At $1 per microscope it could become possible for a billion people or more to be tested each year. This could create the opportunity to actually wipe out malaria.

FOLLOW THAT NANOPARTICLE!: Chemotherapy drugs can be quite effective at killing cancer cells, but also affect the healthy cells around them. US Scientists custom designed nanoparticles to carry the drugs to the spot where they're needed and then trigger them with a two-photon laser in the infrared red wavelength. The light can penetrate only around 4 cm from the skin surface, meaning the therapy would best suit breast, stomach, colon and ovarian tumours. The nanoparticles include thousands of pores which hold the drug. Each pore is equipped with a nanovalve that responds to energy from two-photon light exposure, causing it to open and release the drug. The nanoparticles are fluorescent, meaning medical staff can track their progress using molecular imaging techniques and trigger them at the correct time. Such highly targeted treatment should make plenty of people very happy.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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