Tech Universe: Friday 04 April

By Miraz Jordan

Horizon: The disability proof all-terrain electric bike. Photo / Horizon
Horizon: The disability proof all-terrain electric bike. Photo / Horizon

WHEELS OF FUN: Using a wheelchair shouldn't stop you from enjoying off-road adventures, so the three wheeled Horizon all-terrain electric bike could come in very useful. The bike has two wheels on the front, and an electric motor driven by a lithium battery on the rear wheel. The bike can take foot or hand pedals or a footrest and be controlled by various means, such as tri-pin controls for those with limited use of their hands. Handlebars fold down and the seat can be raised for easy entry and exit, while the low centre of gravity makes balance easy. The Horizon can run on the road, grass, gravel and mud, but isn't designed for use indoors. That looks like a whole lot of fun.

PEARLY BRICKS: Ceramics are strong but fragile. To make up for that sometimes metals or polymers are combined with the ceramic, but that can cause other problems, such as susceptibility to high temperatures. Mother-of-pearl is also fragile but tough because of its structure which resembles a stack of bricks welded together so cracks must follow a tortuous path to propagate.

Researchers have now figured out how to create an artificial mother-of-pearl that is almost 10 times stronger than a conventional ceramic and yet costs around the same to manufacture. They froze a layered structure of alumina, causing the alumina to self-assemble in the form of stacks of platelets. It was then made denser by heating. This material could have a lot of industrial applications, for example in motors and energy generation devices. We keep finding that following Nature's lead is a good idea.

GET THE POWER: Some medical devices are designed to go deep within tissue or under bone. They all need a source of power though, and that's a problem that could be solved with a battery that melts away. US researchers have developed a battery whose metals slowly dissolve in the body and whose ions are biocompatible in low concentrations. The electrolyte is a saline solution, and the container is a biodegradable polymer known as a polyanhydride. At the moment the batteries maintain a steady output for only around a day but the developers hope to increase the power per unit weight so the power would last long enough for a wireless implantable sensor. The notion of a battery melting away in the body is a rather uncomfortable one.

IN THE BAG: It's OK when you set off on your travels and all your clothes are clean and fresh. Before long though you face the problem of carrying dirty clothes alongside the clean ones. The Genius Pack handles that with Laundry Compression Technology. The large bag has a separate compartment whose interior can be unzipped and taken out to send clothes to be cleaned. Put dirty clothes in that compartment then compress it against the side of the bag so the air is expelled through a valve. The dirty clothes then take less space and their smell doesn't mingle with your clean clothes. A nice touch is the packing list sewn into the bag itself. Wouldn't a sturdy plastic bag do the same thing?

BIKE PLUS: If you have some serious sand or snow cycling to do then Rungu's Juggernaut is here to help. It's a bicycle with 3 wheels — two at the front, shoulder-width apart, and one at the back. All wheels take fat tires, and an extended wheelbase gives better weight distribution. The bike is geared low to handle difficult terrain. Go on, lash out on a fourth wheel.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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