Tech Universe: Wednesday 23 April

By Miraz Jordan

Glow in the dark roads. Photo / Studio Roosegaarde
Glow in the dark roads. Photo / Studio Roosegaarde

GIVE BACK THE LIGHT: There's a 500 metre stretch of highway near Oss in the Netherlands that has no streetlights. Instead it has road markings that absorb light then glow in the dark. This is made possible by a photo-luminescent powder that's integrated into the road paint. The glow lasts up to 8 hours after a day's light is absorbed. Nice idea but how about being able to see people and things on the road? Ars Technica.

DRINK OR DRIVE?: When astronauts spend a while on a mission, dealing with their urine and other waste becomes quite a problem. Urine can already be processed into drinking water, but now there's the possibility it could become fuel as well. First forward osmosis is used to filter contaminants from urea in urine and other wastewater. Then a Urea Bioreactor Electrochemical system converts the urea into ammonia which is then turned into energy with a fuel cell.

The system was created with space missions in mind, but could be useful for any wastewater treatment systems where urea or ammonia are a problem. Water or fuel is an inconvenient decision. American Chemical Society.

UP, OUT AND AWEIGH: The Black Knight Transformer sounds like it should be in comic books, but it's actually a modular and roadable vertical takeoff and landing aircraft. The vehicle has wheels on the bottom and rotors on the top. It's makers claim it's the world's largest multicopter that is controlled and stabilised with propeller speed. The vehicle has a large interior volume so it can transport cargo to the front lines and carry wounded soldiers from the battlefield. Its modular nature means it can be quickly reconfigured and repaired in the field, for example, swapping in a boat hull or an amphibious hull for water operations. Nice: travel by land, sea or air. Advanced Tactics.

DEAF TO THE PLEAS: In Missouri they really want drivers to slow down past road works. They're so serious about it that the Department of Transportation has bought two Long-Range Acoustic Devices, otherwise known as sound cannons. The LRAD puts out up to 153 decibels of sound through an emitter, not a loud speaker, so it penetrates even windscreens and well-insulated vehicles and can be heard above a loud radio. As well as an alarm sound, a spoken message will tell drivers to slow down. Sound levels above 130 decibels can permanently damage hearing, but officials say the device will be used safely. Of course it will. Story Leak.

A JUMP TO THE LEFT: There are a lot of objects orbiting the Earth: many are operational satellites while others are bits of junk, dead satellites and the like. The European Space Agency's Sentinel-1A environmental monitoring spacecraft was launched successfully in early April. Rather than celebrating though, the team almost immediately had to start avoiding space junk: a NASA satellite that had run out of fuel and could no longer be manoeuvered. Even before the Sentinel-1A's subsystems had been commissioned an extreme risk of collision had been identified and the satellite's orbit had to be shifted. That space junk problem's not getting any better either. European Space Agency.

Miraz Jordan,

- NZ Herald

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