Tech Universe: Tuesday 20 May

By Miraz Jordan

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

A NOD TO RACING: With a tilt to the left and a roll to the back one driver in demo laps before the Indy 500 car race race will be driving his modified car by head movements alone. Biting down on a mouth tube applies the brakes, while head tilts steer and accelerate. The driver is a quadriplegic, disabled in a Speedway crash in 2000. The car's fitted with overhead cameras that track and measure the movements of the driver's head and relay the commands to the steering wheel and pedals via an onboard computer. A GPS warning system and steering system help make sure the car doesn't stray off the track and the car can be controlled remotely from the pit. For the demo laps a safety officer will ride along and can take over the controls if necessary. That's definitely levelling the playing field.

A NEW CHARGE: Lithium ion batteries are extremely useful, but they degrade fairly quickly, charge relatively slowly and can pose a fire risk. Power Japan Plus are developing a Dual Carbon Battery that doesn't have those problems.

Made almost exclusively of carbon, the Ryden dual carbon battery is safer, more sustainable and has a longer lifetime. Both anode and cathode are made of carbon, which is also its only active material. It's rated for more than 3,000 charge cycles and charges 20 times faster than lithium ion batteries. Production begins later this year and batteries should be suitable for medical devices and satellites. It's carbon all the way down.

ON THE ROAD: It doesn't sound like a huge thing to say that a bus in the US recently travelled more than 1100 Km in 24 hours, although it's certainly a long and gruelling trip. It's a bit further than the drive from Wellington to Cape Reinga. The bus though was electric and charged periodically throughout the day. Its trip was on a specially designed circuit that simulated both commuter and central business district routes and drive cycles. The bus averaged 46 Kph and its makers claim it recorded an average fuel economy of nearly 11.5 kilometres per litre. The electric buses are already in use on various places around the US. Those must have been good fast charges.

IN THE HOLE: Oops: deep hole is deep and strong. The robotic deep-sea vehicle Nereus was exploring almost 10,000 metres down in the Kermadec Trench. That's the second deepest oceanic trench in the world. Recently, 7 hours into a planned 9 hour dive at the deepest extent of the trench, the researchers lost contact with the vessel. After a search they found debris from Nereus floating on the sea surface nearby. The researchers figure a portion of the vehicle probably imploded under the pressure which was around 16,000 pounds per square inch. What's astonishing is that it could withstand that kind of pressure in the first place.

FLUSH DRIVE: An electric screwdriver is a wonderful thing, but if you're not careful it's easy to sink a screw too deep and then have to fill the depression it leaves. Black+Decker's AutoSense drill does a smart thing: it detects the change in torque when a screw's wider head hits the surface of the material you're working with and stops itself with an automatic clutch so the screw ends up flush. Micro adjustments are available to tweak the depth of the screw. That's a useful development in screwdriver technology.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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