Tech Universe: Monday 14 April

By Miraz Jordan

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

DOTS IN CHARGE: StoreDot's prototype smartphone battery and charger can do its work in just 30 seconds. It relies on bio-organic nanodots that enable rapid charging. The prototype is about the size of a laptop charger but the creators aim to make it smaller in time for production. A 30-second charge could forgive a lot of weight and size.

WEEDS ON THE RUN: Airports have to patrol their runways checking for and removing weeds which can create a hazard for aircraft. One way to do that is to just routinely spray weedkiller, but those chemicals can end up doing harm in groundwater. France's Orly Airport's tractor outfitted with sensors locates weeds then squirts those weeds directly with herbicide. The Weedseeker patrols at night using infrared sensors to detect the weeds. A geolocation function prevents areas from being over-treated or missed completely, while a computer and a specially designed spray boom attachment designed for taxiways handle the herbicide application.

Unfortunately the vehicle still requires a human to drive it, but surely one day that will be automated too.

CHANGE THE SHEETS: Graphene has a great future in electronics, because it has 100 times greater electron mobility than silicon. However, it's been hard to produce in large amounts so that's slowed its commercial uptake. Now Korean researchers have a new method of growing graphene without reducing its desirable properties and the process holds out hope for increasing commercial use. The new method synthesises large-area graphene into a single crystal on a germanium semiconductor so fragments align and join up without defects at the boundaries. That creates a large sheet of graphene, ready for use.

IN THE ZONE: Helicopters are very useful for transporting loads in difficult territory. The US Military has been using them with no crew aboard in Afghanistan to supply remote bases. In that case though the drone requires a prepared landing site and a technical specialist at the drop zone to guide the helicopter in by remote control. Their Autonomous Aerial Cargo/Utility System is a drone with a difference as it automates the entire process. With just a few minutes training a soldier can use a tablet to call in a resupply to an unprepared landing site. Sensors allow the helicopter to see and react to overhead power lines, trees, and objects on the ground. If the landing site is busy the drone automatically diverts and scans the area to find a nearby alternative. The system can be fitted to different types of helicopter too, even those normally flown by a human, and could be a way to make better use of older machines. Hacking that system could be very productive for an enemy force.

SENSITIVE MAN: The British military use a mannequin to test equipment such as chemical and biological suits for soldiers. Now they have a new model that can move its head, arms and legs to mimic walking, marching, running, sitting, kneeling and lifting its arms to sight a weapon. The new Porton Man has more than 100 sensors all over its body so scientists can carry out real-time analysis on equipment such as chemical and biological suits. The mannequin features very light but highly durable carbon composite body parts. It's no dummy then.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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