Tech Universe: Monday 12 May

By Miraz Jordan

The Morpher Helmet. Photo / MorpherHelmet Facebook
The Morpher Helmet. Photo / MorpherHelmet Facebook

FLAT HEAD: Bicycle helmets are a nuisance to deal with when they're not being worn. The Morpher Helmet folds flat to fit in a briefcase or small bag. The helmet is made from nylon, EPS and polycarbonate and can be recycled at its end of life. The Morpher should be particularly interesting for urban commuters and for bike sharing schemes which commonly don't offer helmets because of the difficulty of storing them. Flat helmets should be cheaper and easier to ship too.

GROWING WITH PLASTIC: Plastic is a huge asset in our daily lives, but once discarded it tends to collect in landfills and the ocean where it causes massive problems. A biodegradable plastic made from shrimp cells and a fibroin protein from silk could make a difference. The component materials are readily available, while the shrilk bioplastic can be used in mass production of items, both small and large.

Once discarded, shrilk breaks down in just a few weeks, releasing rich nutrients that support plant growth. And if we harvest shrimp in bulk for plastic, what effect does that have on the food chain?

THE SMELLS, THE SMELLS!: Just as glaring lights can leave you blinded and make you turn away, giving a mosquito too much to smell can stop it from biting you. Scientists at Vanderbilt University have created a new class of insect repellant that works by overloading the insect's sense of smell. It activates every mosquito odorant receptor at once, rather than the usual one at a time. That overload not only limits a mosquito's ability to smell a target human but also acts as a repellant, causing the mosquito to leave the area. The VUAA1 compound may not be suitable for commercial products but could lead researchers to other similar compounds they could work with.

BRAIN BUZZ: The electrical fields in our brains do important work in our body, including communicating with blood vessels, which in turn communicate with the blood tissue. Researchers in Europe are targeting malfunctioning blood cells in the brain with a device that delivers a dose of Transcranial Pulsating Electro Magnetic Fields. In tests, treatments over the course of a week helped people with depression to improve their mood, also causing symptoms to disappear. The cap-like device places 7 coils over certain parts of the head then delivers minute pulses of electricity that activate capillaries in the brain, which then form new blood vessels and secrete growth hormones. Don't try this one at home folks.

SENSIBLE TRIGGERS: Sentinl's Identilock can be attached to any gun to cover the trigger and prevent firing. Press a finger on the fingerprint reader though and if it's a registered print, the guard detaches so the gun can be fired. Multiple fingerprints can be stored, and if necessary the lock can be overridden with a key. The idea of the device is to help avoid accidental shootings, for example if a child picks up the gun, while allowing an owner quick access in an emergency. And no wearing gloves while firing the gun either. Sentinl.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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