Tech Universe: Wednesday 19 March

By Miraz Jordan

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

CAT CONTROL: That annoying catflap that squeaks as it swings in the breeze also lets cold air into the house. The Petwalk automated pet door can be programmed to respond to a chip under the skin of your cats and dogs. The door opens when a pet gets near but can be programmed for each pet to keep them in or out at different times, or to stay closed if it's raining. Larger sizes of doors include an alarm and secure locking systems, while a light helps pets who are visually impaired. Custom cover plates can also be added to make the door blend in with the wall of the house. What, no smartphone connection? Oh, and the price will add a chunk on to your mortgage.

NEED FOR SPEED: Intel's MXC Optical Connector is intended for data centres where speed is crucial. A connector and cable combination can handle up to 1.6 terabits per second of data for distances of up to 300 metres.

The connector uses lenses to carry light rather than physical contact of the end faces which enables a much greater immunity to dust, the single largest cause of cable failures in data centres. Dust, eh, I would have thought heat.

WIND AND ICE: The Askaryan Radio Array is an extremely large neutrino detector currently being built near the South Pole. Building involves burying detector elements 200 metres below the ice. When it's finished this detector will be thousands of times larger than the current Icecube Neutrino Observatory. Each detector needs electricity though which is where a mix of solar and wind power comes into play. A solar panel is placed vertically high on a wind turbine tower so it catches summer light while the sun's near the horizon. The solar panel and the wind turbine feeds a battery that's buried in the snow to protect it from extremes of temperature. In summer engineers have to dig up the battery for routine maintenance. Everything is so much harder at the South Pole.

COOL SAVINGS: Your regular household magnet doesn't do anything special if the room warms or cools by a few degrees. A new nanomaterial that has a 10 nanometer layer of nickel on a 100 nanometer wafer of vanadium oxide makes a magnet that easily flips its magnetic orientation when heated or cooled only slightly. It could perhaps eventually be used in computer hard drives. Mind you, the researchers were using temperatures in the region of negative 100C, so a practical application for room-temperature computers could be a way off yet.

ON THE CARDS: Press a special smartcard against someone's skin so it picks up some sweat. Then feed the card into a portable reader and find out in moments if that person has been using cocaine. That's one of the things the European LABONFOIL can do. The diagnostic system uses a portable device that reads smart cards and skin patches then sends results via WiFi to a remote computer, a tablet or smartphone. The system can already detect cocaine consumption, monitor colon cancer, identify bacteria in food and analyse environmental contamination, though other tests are planned. To identify colon cancer the card needs a few drops of blood to identify a specific protein. Each card includes a sophisticated electronic circuit and different chemical components that react to defined substances.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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