Tech Universe: Wednesday 2 July

By Miraz Jordan

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

TAKE IT TO HEART: If you use a Pacemaker you may need a risky surgery after about 7 years to replace the battery. A flexible piezoelectric energy harvester developed by Korean researchers could do away with those battery replacements. The researchers tested the nanogenerator in rats whose small body movements provided enough energy to stimulate the animal's heart. The researchers say this nanogenerator could be used for Pacemakers and for other implantable medical devices. Keep moving if you want to stay alive.

TONGUE TWISTER: Some paraplegics with electric wheelchairs sip and puff with a straw to get around. That's tricky to learn though and exhausting so US researchers tried something else. Tests showed that with a magnetic titanium tongue piercing and a wireless headset a user has more and easier control over the wheelchair and other systems and the users preferred it.

Now the researchers aim to reduce the size of the headset.

BUG PAPER: Unfortunately it was only a short-lived campaign for World Health Day, but one Sri Lankan newspaper produced an issue whose ink was laced with citronella essence. The idea was to help keep mosquitoes and Dengue fever at bay. It seems the locals mainly read the paper in early morning and in the evening, just when mosquitoes are most likely to strike. Articles in the paper also provided information about dengue fever and its prevention. Sri Lanka is one place where Dengue fever affects thousands of people each year. While the sales and readership of the paper increased, there was no word on whether this could be an effective way to reduce the spread of Dengue.

TOUCHING: Camping on rough ground? A thin rubber sheet can cushion you from rocks when you sleep, but you'll still be aware of the uneven surface. A thicker sheet would help, but then it's bigger and heavier to carry. German scientists have found a way to hide or mask shapes so they can't be felt, and eventually that could lead to camping mattresses that really are thin, light and comfortable. Their mechanical invisibility cloak is based on a specially structured polymer. The crystalline material consists of needle-shaped cones, whose tips meet. The size of the contact points is calculated precisely to hide objects below. That camping mattress may be a way off though.

SALTY SOLUTION: Most solar cells are made of silicon. Some thinner, cheaper and lighter cells are made from cadmium telluride. The problem is that manufacturing them requires expensive and highly toxic chemicals. Now researchers have found they can use a much cheaper, non-toxic alternative, magnesium chloride in manufacturing. The chemical can be extracted from sea water, and is cheap enough to bring the cost of solar cells down enough that solar generation can rival conventional power generation in price. One big problem remains: tellurium is extremely rare. Let's hope there's a good recycling plan in place for solar cells at the end of their useful life. BBC.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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