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University researchers at Australia’s QUT have developed an underwater robot designed to find and reduce an overpopulation of crown-of-thorns (COTS) starfish, the cause of widespread destruction of the Great Barrier Reef. Equipped with stereoscopic cameras and COTS-detecting software that can identify the starfish in a complex reef environment, plus thrusters, GPS, pitch-and-roll sensors and a lethal injection system, a fleet of COTSbots will help human divers reduce the population of coral-eating COTS, which die within 24 hours of being injected. Scientists are seeking funding to adapt the robot for other marine threats.


Scientists at Georgia Institute of Technology (USA) have designed a wind-power generator made of flexible plastic strips with nanowires on one side and an indium tin oxide coating on the other. As the strips sway in the wind, the two edges briefly touch, causing electrons to jump from one side to the other and creating an electrical current. Unlike conventional wind turbines, the “triboelectric nanogenerator” harvests energy “from natural wind blowing in any direction,” project scientist Weiqing Yang said, and works where turbines are difficult to install. Laboratory tests have shown that 60 strips can generate enough energy to power 60 LEDs.


Hong Kong-based technology company WobbleWorks has developed a 3D-printing pen used to draw physical objects in midair. The 3Doodler has strands of 3D-printing plastic, which are heated and extruded through a nozzle while drawing. The plastic cools and dries when exposed to air. In addition to arts and crafts, WobbleWorks co-founder Maxwell Bogue sees potential uses in education and the creation of Braille learning aids. The company recently released the lighter and slimmer 3Doodler 2.0. The Pen + Project Book retails for less than US$100 and is available at www.the3doodler.com


French cosmetics giant L’Oréal has developed My UV Patch, an ultrathin smart-skin patch used to track wearers’ exposure to harmful UV rays. People who wish to measure their exposure need only photograph the patch and upload the image to a mobile app. L’Oréal said it developed the patch technology to educate people about skin protection and aid the company in developing new methods to monitor reactions to future products. The free disposable patch will be launched in the third quarter of 2016 in 16 countries.


As mobile and Internet of Things devices multiply the quantity of transmitted data, pureLiFi Limited and a team of scientists at the University of Edinburgh (UK) are using ordinary LED light to transmit data faster than ordinary Wi-Fi. Laboratory tests have shown that “Li-Fi” can download the equivalent of 18 1.5-GB movies per second, according to Harald Haas, pureLiFi’s co-founder and chief scientific officer. Unlike Wi-Fi, whose waves are vulnerable to hackers, the Li-Fi data stream is secure because its signal cannot pass through walls; users must be present in the room to access the data. Li-Fi also is safer for use by hospitals and by people suffering from electro-sensitivity because it does not generate electromagnetic interference.

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