Tech Universe: Wednesday 21 May

By Miraz Jordan

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

BIRDS EYE VIEW: Millions of birds die each year after flying into windows and other glass surfaces. The problem, of course, is that glass is both transparent and reflective so all they see is sky and landscape rather than the glass. Unlike humans, birds can see in the ultraviolet spectrum. Ornilux include a patterned UV reflective coating in their glass that birds can see, but we can't. The coating adds a mesh-like pattern that the birds can easily detect and avoid.
Now to get the skyscraper owners to actually install it.

PUT A LID ON IT: The lids on takeaway coffee cups don't handle spills well. Viroa's new design for the plastic lid makes drinking more enjoyable and reduces spills. The high-impact polystyrene lid includes a small drink well, so the experience is more like drinking from a real cup and you can smell the aroma of the liquid. The position of the opening to drink from also means that if you jostle the container the liquid is less likely to splash out, and even if it does, it mainly falls back to the drink well rather than splashing on your clothes.

Even small improvements can have very welcome consequences.

STAY FOCUSSED: To cut or weld with a laser beam demands a lot of power, and there's another problem: the beam's energy deforms the mirrors that are focusing it. When the mirrors deform so does the laser beam, then it loses intensity and effectiveness. German researchers found a way to deal with this problem: they heat up the mirrors to a precisely controlled level to counteract the deformation.
The researchers made a ceramic mirror with a copper layer on the front and built-in temperature sensors and filaments. The sensors detect any change from heating, then software sends a calculated current through the filaments to heat the mirrors and balance out the deformation. If you can't beat them, join them.

TOP OFF THE LAKE: In the Swiss Alps an enormous engineering project is underway linking two lakes at different altitudes to boost hydroelectric power generation. Lake Limmern lies around 630 metres below Lake Mutt. It's straightforward to generate about 480 MW of power as water falls through turbines from the top lake. Sometimes though the system produces more energy than current demand, so this project adds the ability to pump water back up the mountain to be stored in Lake Mutt. Then, when it's needed, the water can again drop through the turbines for extra power. By using the excess to pump the water up to the higher lake again, the system effectively stores excess energy until it can be useful. The plant should go into operation around 2016. It's always that problem of supply and demand.

SOUNDING BLUE: Thanks to dye that's sensitive to temperature the Chromosonic experimental electronic textile changes colour and pattern in response to both touch and sound. The fabric is hooked up to an Arduino so nichrome wires woven into the material respond to sound and change the fabric's colours. Or just press a hand against the fabric to warm it and bring out different colours. I'm surprised the music industry copyright lawyers aren't already making sure this won't be able to play music.

- NZ Herald

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