Tech Universe: Wednesday 30 April

By Miraz Jordan

The MiniBrake. Photo /
The MiniBrake. Photo /

A TOT STOP: If you're teaching your child to ride a bike you may be worried about being able to stop them if they're heading for danger. The MiniBrake should do the job: it gives you the power to remotely bring their bike to a gentle stop. The MiniBrake is fitted just above the rear wheel on a small bike. A remote operates from up to 50 metres away to deploy the brake, lowering it to apply pressure to the wheel and slow the bike. If the battery's depleted or the remote is out of range the device automatically deploys as a safety measure. A moving bike will be stopped within about half a metre. Many parents would welcome this, surely.

FINE PRINT: Ynvisible's Printoo Arduino modules include batteries and solar cells, LEDs, displays and Bluetooth, motor and display drivers yet they are as thin and flexible as paper and have a low power draw.

Such printed electronics modules haven't usually been available to the public before now.

IN THE PINK: You may not have heard of the mineral called Putnisite, because it's only just been discovered in Western Australia. Its structure and composition are unique, and the mineral is unrelated to anything else. The new mineral occurs as tiny dark pink crystals, no more than 0.5 mm in diameter and is found on volcanic rock. It combines the elements strontium, calcium, chromium, sulphur, carbon, oxygen and hydrogen, but researchers don't yet know if it will have any practical uses.

SHAPES OF REALITY: Prosthetic legs may not be very comfortable because of how they fit. Sometimes they're sufficiently painful that an amputee refuses to wear them. At the MIT Media Lab researchers are working on solving this problem by using MRI to map residual limb shapes and 3D printing to create multi-material sockets. The precise fit means much greater comfort for the wearer. And that in turn could change their lives.

DRINK, DROUGHT AND DIRT: Beijing is a huge city, and it has a water problem, thanks to a drought that's been going on since 1999. They bring in water from the surrounding area, but that's still not enough. From 2019 they plan to source a third of their water from a 1 million ton desalination project, piping water from the relatively clean Caofeidian coastal land reclamation project about 200 kilometres away. A chemical plant will take the water, using a proprietary reverse osmosis membrane technique developed last year, while a saltworks will process the salt. The big downside to the project is that desalination can cause pollution, already a problem in that part of the world.

Miraz Jordan,

- NZ Herald

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