Tech Universe: Friday 6 June

By Miraz Jordan

The Jyrobike.
The Jyrobike.

A MATTER OF BALANCE: Bikes are about balance, steering and pedalling, all things kids can take a while to get control of. The Jyrobike takes balance out of the process, thanks to a flywheel. A control hub in the front wheel keeps the bike balanced, even if the rider wobbles — no training wheels required. This would be a great product for city councils to make available for hire to encourage cycling. And how about a version for adults to learn on?

BEATS BY DR: Doctors have been using stethoscopes for a very long time, but the Thinklabs One stethoscope's chestpiece includes digital features that amplify sound over 100 times and it connects to recording devices and smartphones. Select a filter to focus in on a particular sound range to listen to. A rechargeable Lithium Ion battery means the device needs charging only once or twice a week. Headphones also replace the standard earpieces for better quality sound. Doctors can also work with recorded sounds, creating waveforms, amplifying and further filtering the sounds, even slowing the sounds down for better analysis.

Even your heartbeat can be on file.

TERROR FOR CELLS: Quadrapeutics blows up cancer cells from inside. The technique, developed at Rice University, combines gold nanoparticles, laser pulses, x-rays, and chemotherapy. First come the drugs. Then gold nanoparticles are tagged with antibodies that target specific cancer cells. After the cancer cells ingest the nanoparticles near-infrared laser pulses excite the free electrons on the gold nanoparticles generating heat which destroys cancer cells through intracellular explosions. Pre-clinical trials suggest this technique could be used on solid tumours that have proven hard-to-treat, such as brain, lung, and prostate cancer. Exploding cancer cells sounds suitably dramatic.

STACK THE FUEL: A stack of fuels cells is about the same size as a stack of CDs, and their job is to efficiently convert natural gas directly into electrical energy. German researchers have developed a compact, safe and sturdy fuel cell system that generates electricity and heat in private households from natural gas. The systems can be mounted on a wall and are easy to maintain, yet they can generate enough power for a household of 4 people. Practical tests are underway in Europe while the researchers work on decreasing production costs and increasing the lifetime of the equipment. The miniature power station for home use is based on a solid fuel cell which can reach a temperature of 850C. It sounds like it would have a nice side effect of heating the house too.

POWER WRAP: Power lines carry electricity around but batteries store it. Or so the old way of thinking goes. Researchers at the University of Central Florida have developed a way to both transmit and store electricity in a single lightweight copper wire. Eventually the copper wires could be replaced by special fibres with nanostructures. The techniques sheathes a single copper wire with nanowhiskers treated with a special alloy to create an electrode. Then a second sheath creates a second electrode and the two layers are separated by an insulating gel. The effective result is a supercapacitor on the outside of the copper wire that can store energy. The researchers suggest one potential application could be a jacket that powers electronic gadgets and other devices. Goodbye batteries.

Miraz Jordan,

- NZ Herald

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