Tech Universe: Wednesday 4 June

By Miraz Jordan

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

MUCK INTO WATER: Cow manure and clean water are often seen as extreme opposites in New Zealand, but they could be one and the same. Researchers at Michigan State University have created a system that extracts energy and chemicals from cow manure and produces water clean enough for livestock to drink. The extracted chemicals can be used to make fertiliser too. The system is an anaerobic digester that also uses flitration and reverse osmosis. The researchers say the filtration system can currently turn 378 litres of manure into 189 litres of water, but they believe the output can be increased. What a huge opportunity in a country where dairy farming is so popular.

PHONE ALONE: A mobile phone plus a bit of 3D printing is at the core of the Mobile OCT cancer detection device. The Israeli device consists of a smartphone to capture images, a lens, some lights and a plastic handle. The smartphone slides into a printed cradle, then the operator views potential tumours, such as skin lesions, using white or green lights.

After capturing images into the app the operator can assess them personally, but also send them into the cloud for professional review. The device will be specially useful for screening for cervical cancer in places where that is currently expensive or difficult. Health diagnostic equipment is increasingly functioning with smartphones, making it much more accessible to those who would normally miss out.

FLAG THAT BOAT: In some parts of the world pirates in small boats slip in under the radar and pose a threat to shipping. The WatchStander is a special radar system that aims to detect and deter pirates. Radar mounted on either side of a ship scans for small objects that seem to be moving to intercept. The radar automatically sounds an alarm and can trigger countermeasures, such as a powerful strobe light designed to confuse incoming pirates. One problem is that the system may inaccurately identify innocent fishing vessels, so automatic countermeasures may not be appropriate. Set the cannons to manual control only.

ON THE BOIL: Going off-grid? With your phone? Keeping the device charged will be a challenge. The FlameStower is a handy camping accessory that will help. The small device is designed to catch heat from campfires, grills or stoves and convert it to usable electricity for charging devices. The gadget has legs to support it, a small reservoir to hold water and a blade that goes into a fire. A USB cable quickly delivers 2.5 Watts of power to charge up a phone or other device. It should be a handy thing where fires are allowed.

SUPER COOL: Food can be cooled so it lasts longer, or it can be frozen for use later, though that loses some flavour and nutrients. Mitsubishi's WX Series fridge though can keep food fresh by supercooling it. The technique preserves food at a temperature below freezing without actually freezing it by slow cooling and then keeping the temperature between about -3 and 0C. Supercooling preserves flavours and nutrients for up to 7 days. The fridge itself doesn't keep everything at that temperature, but instead includes a Subfreezing Stocker in place of the usual chiller bin. A high-accuracy temperature sensor and a dedicated air volume controller work together to closely control the temperature. Ah, the art of compromise.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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