Zhenan Bao, a professor of chemical engineering at Stanford University, has developed a flexible, skin-like heart monitor that is sensitive enough to detect stiff arteries and cardiovascular problems. The sensor is worn under an adhesive bandage on the wrist. To make the monitor so small and sensitive, Bao’s team used a thin middle layer of rubber covered with tiny pyramid bumps. Each mold-made pyramid is only a few microns in diameter. When pressure is put on the device, the pyramids deform slightly, changing the size of the gap between the two halves of the device. This change in separation causes a measurable change in the electromagnetic field and the current flow in the device.


Henry Sapiecha

fine gold line


World’s smallest magnetic data storage unit created
If you’re impressed with how much data can be stored on your portable hard drive, well … that’s nothing. Scientists have now created a functioning magnetic data storage unit that measures just 4 by 16 nanometers, uses 12 atoms per bit, and can store an entire byte (8 bits) on as little as 96 atoms – by contrast, a regular hard drive requires half a billion atoms for each byte. It was created by a team of scientists from IBM and the German Center for Free-Electron Laser Science (CFEL), which is a joint venture of the Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron DESY research center in Hamburg, the Max-Planck-Society and the University of Hamburg.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


10 products that defined Steve Jobs from Apple

One of the first Apple computers.

1:51pm | Steve Jobs had no formal schooling in engineering, yet he’s listed as the inventor or co-inventor on more than 200 US patents.

Joint co-founder of Apple retires as CEO of the mighty conglomerate which he drove to the top of the IT world.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


Home beer-brewing is sort of like writing a novel – although you might like the idea of having done it, the thought of all the work involved in doing it can be off-putting. If the PR materials are to be believed, however, the WilliamsWarn brewing machine could make the process a lot easier … and quicker. Unlike the four weeks required by most home brewing systems, it can reportedly produce beer in just seven days.

The WilliamsWarn was created by New Zealand “beer-thinkers” Ian Williams and Anders Warn, and was released in that country this April. The duo claim that it addresses 12 of the key challenges thwarting many home brewers, including the carbonation process, temperature control, and clarification.

Kind of like a Mr. Coffee (perhaps they should have called it “Mr. Beer”), the machine reportedly incorporates all the hardware needed for brewing. This includes a stainless steel pressure vessel with carbonation level control, and systems to control factors such as clarification, sediment removal, temperature, and gas dispensation. Last, but certainly not least, it also features a draft dispense mechanism, for pouring out a glass of the chilled “commercial quality” finished product.

Users spend about 90 minutes cleaning and sterilizing the system, and adding supplied ingredients at the beginning of the process. After that, minimal input is required until a week later, at which point 23 liters (6 U.S. gallons) of beer should be ready for drinking. Part of the reason that it’s able to make beer so quickly is the fact that the carbonation and fermentation processes take place simultaneously. The clarification process is also said to take no more than one day.

The WilliamsWarn brewing machine is currently only available in New Zealand, although its makers hope to expand to the Australian and American markets soon. It sells for NZ$5,660 (US$4,577), plus NZ$39.50 (US$32) for the ingredients for each batch of beer.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

Lift-off for strap-on flying machine

April 13, 2011
$75,000 a piece ... The Martin Jetpack.$75,000 a piece … The Martin Jetpack.

George Jetson fans take note: the wait for your very own jet ski in the sky is nearly over, according to the New Zealand company behind an ambitious aeronautical project.

The Martin Jetpack, literally a strap-on personal flying machine, is now in the final stages of development, with the first machines to be dispatched for solo flights by the end of the year.

Military agencies, border control and rescue organisations in the United States will be the first to use the pricey $NZ100,000 (about $75,000) aircraft. 

Inventor Glenn Martin predicts it will be just 18 months before other wealthy enthusiasts get their delivery.

“We’ve had 2500 people sign up for one so far, and plenty of them from Australia,” Mr Martin told AAP.

Their plans for the expensive toy range from practical – “some just want to dodge the rush-hour traffic and do it in style” – to the purely frivolous.

“We know of someone that would love to do stunts flying across Sydney Harbour. How amazing would that be?” Mr Martin said.

The jetpack resembles two leaf blowers welded together but its capabilities are much more complex. The two-litre, jet-powered engine can soar across the skies at 100km/h at heights of up to 50 metres.

Carrying enough fuel to fly for 30 minutes, the contraption could be used in hard-to-access areas and war zones to patrol borders and, if unmanned, to make difficult deliveries by remote control.

“Some of that might sound boring but where there’s huge cost savings and an increase in efficiencies for agencies it’s actually hugely exciting,” Mr Martin said.

Recreationally, it could be used to go fishing and, one day, get to work.

For now, however, it is categorised as a microlight so it cannot be taken into the city centre, however this may change under US law.

Martin’s machine, lauded as Time magazine’s most anticipated invention last year, has been more than three decades in the making.

The Christchurch man began tinkering with the concept in the 1970s, inspired by the limited success of the US Bell Rocket Belt, which stayed airborne for just 26 seconds before crashing.

A gas-guzzler in the extreme, the belt burned through $US2000 worth of fuel in 30 seconds.

Martin’s latest and most celebrated version, unveiled at an air show in 2008, is more fuel efficient, costing just 15 US cents for 20 seconds in the air.

It was designed to be the “simplest aircraft in the world,” said Mr Martin, who has described how “you strap it on, rev the nuts out of it and it lifts you up off the ground”.

“It’s basic physics. As Newton said, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. So when you shoot lots of air down very fast you go up and you’re flying.”

He said the interest had been overwhelming, with inquiries coming from Middle Eastern royalty, US business tycoons and European daredevils.

The Australian government hadn’t officially registered its interest but, judging by website traffic, the Australian Defence Force was a fan.

“It’s the fourth biggest visitor to our site after Boeing, NASA and the SAS, so something’s going on there,” he said with a laugh.

“Maybe they’ve just got an employee who thinks it’s so cool they spend all day checking it out.”


Received & published by Henry Sapiecha

Tech Talk Video about building guidance system

Thumbnail image for video asset.

Doughnut blimp guide

A Queensland avionics engineering student has created a floating doughnut shaped blimp to guide people through a building. Courtesy CSIRO.AUSTRALIA

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

Scientists left baffled

as the official kilo loses weight

January 24, 2011 – 10:36AM
A computer-generated image of the international prototype kilogram, which is kept in a vault at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures near Paris.A computer-generated image of the international prototype kilogram, which is kept in a vault at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures near Paris.

Scientists say they are moving closer to coming up with a non-physical definition of the kilo after discovering the metal artefact used as the international standard had shed a fraction of its weight.

Researchers caution there is still some way to go before their mission is complete, but if successful it would lead to the end of the useful life of the last manufactured object on which fundamental units of measure depend.

At the moment, the international standard for the kilo is a chunk of metal, under triple lock-and-key in France since 1889.

But scientists became concerned about the cylinder of platinum and iridium housed at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) in Sevres, near Paris, after discovering it had mysteriously lost a minute amount of weight.

Experts at the institute revealed in 2007 that the metal chunk is 50 micrograms lighter than the average of several dozen copies, meaning it had lost the equivalent of a small grain of sand.

They are now searching for a non-physical way of defining the kilo, which would bring it in line with the six other base units that make up the International System of Units

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


Many of the greatest civilian innovations can be traced back to military origins. Penicillin, radar, satellites and the Internet, just to name a few. So it is not uncommon for technologies developed for fighting wars to be found to have wider applications. The following idea is an example of this adaptation and is inspired by the important need of disabled veteran soldiers for independence and mobility. By using terrain sensing control systems designed for the guidance of autonomous vehicles on the battlefield, researchers have begun developing a system that will allow wheelchair users to access more areas than ever before.

Certain terrain types that able bodied people take in their stride can be difficult or even impossible for those in a wheelchair to navigate. Steep hills or ramps, mud, snow, and uneven ground can be dangerous obstacles for a disabled person. Researchers at the Florida A&M University-Florida State University College of Engineering are working on technology able to detect hazardous terrain and automatically adjust control settings of an electric-powered wheelchair to allow a safer transit without the need for assistance.

“This technology will provide electric-powered wheelchair users with an increased degree of independence that may significantly increase their ability to participate in recreational and functional activities,” Army Major Kevin Fitzpatrick, director of Walter Reed’s wheelchair clinic, said.

Inspiration for the research began when Professor Emmanuel Collins, director of Florida State University’s Center for Intelligent Systems, Control and Robotics, heard a presentation by Professor Rory Cooper, director of the Human Engineering Research Laboratories and chairman of Pitt’s rehabilitation science and technology department. Cooper has used a wheelchair since receiving a spinal cord injury in 1980 during his service in the Army. In his presentation, Cooper noted the need for terrain sensing electric-powered wheelchair assistance. The two began developing the idea and along with collaborators at the National Science Foundation-sponsored Quality of Life Technology Center, the concept started taking shape.

“I’m inspired by the idea of applying technology originally meant for the battlefield to improve the quality of everyday life for injured soldiers and others,” Collins said.

Automatic terrain-sensing controls for military robotic vehicles, and four-wheel-drive automobiles have now been on the market for almost a decade. Collins adapted a device known as a laser line striper, originally developed for military use for use in the project. The end result is a system that enables electric-powered wheelchairs to detect hazardous terrain and implement safe driving strategies avoiding wheel slip, sinkage or vehicle tipping.

Collins said that, to his knowledge, no one else is working on this type of application. He estimated that if the team obtains commercial backing the technology could come to fruition in about five years.

The U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command’s Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center has observed the promise in this research and has provided funding and guidance. The project now forms part of the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology sub-portfolio within the Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center’s Advanced Prosthetics and Human Performance research papers

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


A new meaning to keeping your eye on the ball


Entrepreneur’s Edge: Orbotix (1:58)

Reuters Small Business presents expansion pitches from upstarts across the country. Robotic gaming startup Orbotix has developed technology that lets people control a ball with their smartphone. Here’s the pitch:


Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

Sweating stealth vehicle among BAE Systems future battlefield concepts

BAE Systems has presented the fruits of its Future Protected Vehicle program (FPV) to the U.K. Ministry of Defence, and it’s an intiguing glimpse of the what we can expect to see in tomorrow’s high-tech battlefield. With input from over 35 organizations, the FPV study is aimed at identifying “innovative technologies and concepts for short, medium and long term exploitation into future lightweight land platforms.” Hundreds of new technologies were canvassed in the study and seven platform concept vehicles have been floated to showcase the most significant of these, including the use of electronic ink camouflage systems, microwave weapons, floating electro-magnetic armor and a type of mechanical “sweat” that reduces thermal signature. Read More

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha