Tech Universe: Tuesday 08 April

By Miraz Jordan

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

MATS BELOW: If you spend all day sitting in a wheelchair you run the risk of developing pressure ulcers. A Sensimat contains multiple sensors and is used directly underneath the wheelchair cushion. The mat can be paired via Bluetooth with a smartphone app so users know when to shift their sitting position. It also helps therapists monitor pressures and watch for developing problems. The app can be used to signal an alert to change position and to track, monitor and analyse pressure data.It sounds like pressure sensor mats should be a standard part.

MATS ABOVE: Stitches are commonly used to close up wounds, but sticky, biodegradable mats of polymer nanofibers could be used to seal them and promote healing. There's a rather large problem though: getting the mat in place does too much damage, seeing as it needs electricity. Bioengineers at the University of Maryland tried adapting a commercial airbrush and using different formulations of a biodegradable polymer: polylactic-co-glycolic acid.

Mats with fibre diameters of about 370 nm were able to seal diaphragm hernias and cuts to the lung, intestine, and liver in a pig. In lab tests, the nanofibre mats degraded completely over a 42 day period. Coming up soon are further trials to assess this method of sealing wounds. If it'll work in an airbrush then there's hope for getting it into a spray can.

A FRESH VIEW: If you've ever tried to work out how to get more sun into the lounge or the study then you may like to see how the architects of the Girasole house in Canberra worked it out. The answer, of course, is quite simple: turn the house round. In summer a 10.5Kw solar array generates enough electricity to not only run all the usual appliances, but also to slowly rotate the house itself. Linked to a frame on 28 wheels, two silent rotating motors underneath the house require only the energy of a light bulb to operate. That's definitely easier than changing the course of the sun in the sky.

PANEL WORK: A desert may be a great location for solar panels: dry and sunny. But it's probably also going to be dusty and windy, meaning those panels will need to be cleaned regularly or electricity output is reduced. At Kibbutz Ketura in Israel 100 robots clean off dusty photovoltaic panels each night. At the end of each row of panels a robot is installed. Rather than using scarce water to wash the panels the robots use a controlled flow of air and a microfibre brush. Each robot can cover about 9 square metres of panel per minute. Do they have to deal with bird droppings too?

MARTIAN PLAYGROUND: The ExoMars rover is heading off in 2018 to find out if life has ever existed on Mars, by investigating the atmosphere and drilling into the surface to collect and analyse samples. The rover's being sent off to Mars by the European Space Agency and Russia's Roscosmos space agency. Before it leaves Earth though it will first train in a special 30 x 13 metre Mars Yard in the UK. 300 tonnes of sand, scattered rocks and carefully painted walls and doors help the indoor yard mimic the appearance of the Martian landscape. The rover will be able to navigate and drive autonomously at least 70 metres per day across the surface of Mars. It's not only toys that use playgrounds.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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