Tech Universe: Wednesday 09 April

By Miraz Jordan

Curcumin, a key ingredient of turmeric, could be used when dusting for fingerprints. Photo / Thinkstock
Curcumin, a key ingredient of turmeric, could be used when dusting for fingerprints. Photo / Thinkstock

FINGERED FOR CRIME: The fingerprints left behind at a crime scene could reveal more than just the obvious pattern of ridges and hollows. Researchers at Sheffield Hallam University found that dusting with curcumin, a key ingredient of turmeric, can help mass spectrometry analysts determine the presence of various fatty acids, drugs and other molecules. That means results can provide clues for a suspect's sex, whether they've handled or taken drugs and even what they've eaten. OK chaps, we're looking for a male suspect who had a ham and cheese sandwich for lunch.

TABLETS OF PLASTIC: Sony's A4 sized Digital Paper tablet shows PDFs on an E-ink display and draws so little power it should work for 3 weeks without needing to be recharged. The 1200 x 1600 dot Mobius display is built on plastic, and weighs about half as much as one made of glass.

The tablet is a touchscreen, but also includes a stylus. A bunch of tablets like that could save a lot of paper in meetings.

COOL CONTACT: Electronic devices get hot, and that heat can cause problems. Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have produced a thermal interface from a conjugated polymer able to conduct heat 20 times better than the original polymer, and at up to 200 degrees Celsius. The new thermal interface could be as thin as three microns, unlike the comparatively thick 50 to 75 microns of conventional materials. One reason for its effectiveness is that the material makes good contact with the surface it's on — around 80%, rather than less than 1%. That 1% does tend to be a problem.

BEND IT, SHAKE IT: Researchers at Seoul National University in South Korea have developed a skin patch that can be worn on the wrist like a second skin. Its purpose is to monitor people who have Parkinson's disease or epileptic seizures, and perhaps in future to administer drugs if tremors are detected. The 1 millimetre thick patch is made of a hydrocolloid dressing with a layer of silicon nanoparticles embedded in it. The silicon nanomembranes can pick up the bend and stretch of human skin and convert them into small electronic signals stored as data in separate memory cells made from layers of gold nanoparticles. At the moment the patch relies on an external power source, but in future it might be powered by the wearer's movements. Kinetic energy from tremors would be a great way to power a patch for detecting shakes.

THIS WAY: Light waves have colour (or wavelength), polarisation, and direction. We can easily filter light by colour and polarisation, but filtering by direction is a whole different challenge. Now MIT researchers have a system that allows light of any colour to pass through only if it is coming from one specific angle while reflecting all light coming from other directions. This could prove useful for solar panels, telescopes and microscopes and privacy filters for display screens. The technique relies on ultrathin layers of alternating glass and tantalum oxide where the thickness of each layer is precisely controlled. The interface between the layers might normally reflect some light, but with some very precise work things can be set up to reflect most light over the entire visible range of frequencies except for that coming in at precisely the right angle and polarisation. This could be particularly useful for telescopes, for viewing a faint planet next to a bright star, for example. Maybe that could be useful in cars to help prevent sun strike.

Miraz Jordan,

- NZ Herald

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