Kiwi scientists have had an up-close look at some of the strange creatures that inhabit the depths around the Kermadec Islands and some of them are likely to be new to science.

Of 236 species surveyed aboard the Niwa vessel Tangaroa, three had likely never been recorded, 20 were new to our vast Exclusive Economic Zone and 60 had never been found in the Kermadec region, about 800 kilometres northeast of New Zealand.

The 20-day journey took place late last year and was unique in bringing together scientific expertise in a range of disciplines from seven New Zealand organisations, enabling work to be undertaken from the intertidal zone of the islands down to 3000 metres deep, and from the surface of the ocean to the seafloor.

More than 250 invertebrate species were also provisionally identified, although many will be sent to experts in New Zealand and internationally for formal identification.

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A collage of some of the species found. Photo / NIWA
A collage of some of the species found. Photo / NIWA

An important piece of sampling equipment was an underwater camera which was towed several metres above the sea floor to avoid disturbing habitats.

"We wanted to undertake the survey in the least disruptive way possible," Niwa fisheries scientist Dr Malcolm Clark said.

The expedition was the first time a dive team had operated from Tangaroa.

It meant surveys could be done of the shallow reef communities and inter-tidal area around several of the islands and rocks on the Kermadec Ridge.

Mouth rinse gives runners a kick

Endurance athletes looking to improve their times might consider swishing with a mouth rinse that contains a little sugar during their next performance.

Researchers at the University of Georgia have shown that endurance athletes who swished, but didn't ingest, a sucrose solution several times during a time trial significantly improved their running times compared to those who swished with only water.

The sucrose solution, which was sweet-tasting but also provided a small amount of energy, is thought to boost endurance performance by stimulating "reward areas" in the brain related to motor control, researchers said.

On average, researchers noted about a 5 per cent improvement in time when the athletes swished with sucrose compared to water, the unsweetened control used in the study.

"It was surprising to us how drastic the improvement in times was," study leader Associate Professor Jamie Cooper said.

"These were endurance-trained individuals, so to see a 5 per cent improvement in performance, almost three minutes on average, was huge."

Associate Professor Jamie Cooper Photo / Cal Powell/University of Georgia
Associate Professor Jamie Cooper Photo / Cal Powell/University of Georgia

As part of the study, 16 endurance athletes (nine men and seven women) between the ages of 18 and 45 completed a 12.8km time trial on an indoor track, swishing and then spitting out a solution eight times during the run.

The athletes completed four time trials using a different mouth rinse each time: a sucrose, or table sugar, solution; a low-intensity sucralose, an artificial sweetener that provides no energy but tastes sweet; a high-intensity sucralose; and water.

Results indicated the presence of energy in the mouth rinse appeared necessary for improvements in time, as the artificial sweeteners did not improve performance more than water alone.

"It's more the presence of energy in the mouth rinse than it is the sweet taste," Cooper said.

"Sweet taste might have a small effect because we did have some trends for differences, but the energy definitely seems to be the main driving force behind it."

Coming soon: Stretchy tablets

Imagine an ultra-thin smart tablet that can be stretched easily from mini-size to extra large, a rubber band-like wrist monitor that measures your heartbeat, or wallpaper that can double as an electronic display.

These are some of the incredible potential applications of the stretchable smart fabric being developed by a group of US engineering researchers.

Because the material can be produced on a standard printer, it had a major potential cost advantage over current technologies that were expensive to manufacture.

"We can conceivably make the costs of producing flexible electronics comparable to the costs of printing newspapers," said Chuan Wang, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering leading the team at Michigan State University.

Chuan Wang, assistant professor of engineering at Michigan State University, displays the stretchable electronic material he and his research team developed in his lab. Photo / Kurt Stepnitz
Chuan Wang, assistant professor of engineering at Michigan State University, displays the stretchable electronic material he and his research team developed in his lab. Photo / Kurt Stepnitz

"Our work could soon lead to printed displays that can easily be stretched to larger sizes, as well as wearable electronics and soft robotics applications."

The smart fabric was made up of several materials fabricated from nanomaterials and organic compounds.

These compounds are dissolved in solution to produce different electronic inks, which were run through the printer to make the devices.

From the ink, Wang and his team successfully created the elastic material, the circuit and the organic light-emitting diode (OLED).

The next step was combining the circuit and OLED into a single pixel, which Wang estimated will take one to two years.

There were generally millions of pixels just underneath the screen of a smart tablet or a large display.

Once the researchers successfully combined the circuit and OLED into a working pixel, the smart fabric could be potentially commercialised.

Conceivably, Wang said, the stretchable electronic fabric could be folded and put in one's pocket without breaking.