Expandable foam is a good insulator to help keep your house warm, but it's based on petrochemical plastics. Now the

have found a way to create foam from wood particles. First they grind wood very finely until it's a slimy mass. Next they add gas to create a frothy foam that is then hardened, with or without added chemicals. The wood foam makes a lightweight base material that can then be made into rigid foam boards and flexible foam mats. Tests on the foam showed it did well on thermo-insulating, moisture-related and mechanical properties. Now the researchers are experimenting with different types of wood to discover which tree species make the best basis for their product, and sorting out how best to mass produce it. The other good news is that wood foam could perhaps replace polystyrene for some packaging products. How is it in the fire hazard area though?

A SICKLY COLOUR: Colorimetric tests are widely used for medical monitoring, drug testing and environmental analysis. They're fairly simple: small strips produce colour change in a solution. The intensity of the colour reflects the concentration of that solution. But the problems start there, with accurately assessing the colour. That's where Colorimetrix, an app developed by researchers at the University of Cambridge, comes in. The user takes a sample of urine, saliva or other bodily fluid and applies it to a colour strip. Then they use an app on their phone to take a photo of the result. The app analyses the colours of the test, compares them with a pre-recorded calibration, and displays a numerical result. The result can then be stored, sent to a healthcare professional, or directly analysed by the phone for diagnosis. The app is available at the moment only for research, and is being further developed. And how does the ambient light affect things?


KEEP YOUR BOTTLE: If you like or need to carry water with you the Öko Odyssey configurable bottle might be of interest. The standard carbon based filter handles chlorine and odour in tap water, or slot in the Level-2 filter to take out bacteria such as giardia lamblia, cryptosporidium and other seriously harmful contaminants. At the bottom of the bottle is a 220 ml container for food which doubles as a drinking cup or a storage container. Or replace that with a flashlight adapter. Reverse the flashlight to turn the bottle full of water into a lantern. What's the betting you always need the flashlight if you brought the food storage container?

BIG DATA: The GMAX3005 is a massively high resolution 150 megapixel CMOS image sensor from China, designed for medical and industrial applications. The sensor can run at 10 frames per second at full frame or at higher frame rates in row-windowing mode. The wafer-scale sensor has a 167.6 mm x 30.1 mm chip size including a 165 mm x 27.5 mm photon-sensitive area. Long exposures are possible without active cooling, making the sensor suitable for high end industrial work. That's not a chip for your point and shoot.

MOON ONLINE: NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has spent the last 5 years mapping the surface of the Moon with 2 Narrow Angle Cameras and a Wide Angle Camera. Out of that comes imagery of most of the Moon with a pixel scale of 2 metres. NASA now have the LROC Northern Polar Mosaic image online, with 867 billion total pixels, of which 681 billion pixels have image data. Some 10,581 images were used to cover around 2.5 million square kilometres of Moon surface. To download the whole lot you'd need to set aside almost a terabyte of space, but images are optimised so that only a few tens of kilobytes are needed to see any given location at full resolution using the web view.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz