Tech Universe: Thursday 17 July

By Miraz Jordan

The Oru Kayak.
The Oru Kayak.

FOLDED FREEDOM: A fold-up kayak? The Oru Kayak folds up into a box for easy carrying. The 3.7 metre kayak weighs 12 Kg and folds in a few minutes into a box less than a metre square. The skin is a double-layered polypropylene rated for 20,000 fold cycles, while the fold pattern allows the skin to act as a monolithic structural unit, without the need for an internal frame. A rigid floorboard reinforces the cockpit and doubles as the lid of the box. Once you're finished with the kayak it can be fully recycled. Fitting the kayak in the boot of the car would have to be a bonus.

FAST AND CURIOUS: Would you rather walk through a Qylatron Entry Experience Solution or an airport security scanner? The Qylatron was used recently in Brazil for World Cup match crowd screening. Rather than screening bags on a conveyor belt, the machine has 5 pods.

Hold a ticket up to a pod and it opens for your bags. Then you walk through a scanning gate to the other side of the pod where your bags are ready to be collected when you hold the ticket to the pod again. Because the machine can screen 5 people and their bags at once it's quicker than airport scanners. It's also more secure as bags aren't just left on a conveyor for anyone to pick up. The pod door turns red and calls a security guard if the scanner detects any suspicious objects. Speeding up such security scans would be welcomed by all.

FAST AND POROUS: Flash memory technology has allowed us to store a lot of data in a small package: just think of the memory card you use in a digital camera. Resistive random-access memory packs even more into an even smaller space — maybe a terabyte of data on a device the size of a postage stamp. That's more than 50 times the data density of current flash memory. Now a team at Rice University have found that using porous silicon oxide material can improve the RRAM in many ways, including ease of manufacture and increased endurance. What's a postage stamp again?

JUMP START: When water droplets spontaneously jump away from superhydrophobic surfaces during condensation, they can gain electric charge in the process. Researchers did some testing with interleaved flat metal plates, some with a hydrophilic surface, connected through an external circuit. Jumping droplets carried charge from one plate to the other as water condensed from the atmosphere and the charge difference was harnessed to provide power. The amount of power generated isn't huge but a device like this could be invaluable to people in remote spots with few other options. A device that both creates fresh water and generates power could be very handy for some.

ODD BALL: Carbon buckyballs are made of 60 carbon atoms arranged in pentagons and hexagons to form a sphere. After they were discovered in 1985 carbon nanotubes and graphene were also discovered. Now researchers at Brown University have created a similar sphere with boron, using 40 atoms. The borospherene they've developed consists of 48 triangles, 4 seven-sided rings and 2 six-membered rings. Several atoms stick out a bit from the others, making the surface of borospherene somewhat less smooth than a buckyball. They don't yet know what it might be useful for, but one idea is hydrogen storage. But the utility is for others to figure out.

Miraz Jordan,

- NZ Herald

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