Electronic clothing—glowing ladies

Imagine that you are wearing an evening party dress that glows softly, emitting light in various slowly changing colours of the rainbow! Sounds impossible, does it not?

The development of organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs) is now making this possible. Impregnated into special thin film polymeric fabrics, the layer of organic semiconductors is placed between two electrodes so that the resulting material can conduct electricity. The solar cells incorporated into the material allow the production of power needed for lighting up the OLEDs. The light emitting layer comprises certain organic compounds that emit light when a current is applied to them.

It all sounds more like electronic gadgetry than fashion—but this is the wondrous world of science that we live in. So the next time you walk into a party, to light up the environment with your presence—literally!

Giant kites to assist ships

A German company SkySails has been manufacturing giant kites that can be tied to ships and help save fuel costs by supplementing their own power by wind power. The technology was first successfully demonstrated when a large kite was attached to a 433 foot boat, MS Beluga SkySails, in 2008. Now a huge 30,000 tonnes ship belonging to Cargill Ocean Transportation will be fitted in the same manner. A giant kite measuring 382 square yards will be tied to the front of the ship to pull it along flying at a height of 100-400 meters. Its flying trajectory will be optimally controlled by computers. The launch and retrieval of the kite will be carried out by a built-in mechanical system comprising a winch-equipped telescoping tower installed on the bow of the ship.

Using this interesting technology, the system will save up to 35 per cent fuel. The system is claimed to provide five to 25 times more power than conventional sails.

Ultra-sensitive artificial skin—for robots

A special highly sensitive artificial skin impregnated with flexible transistors has now been developed by a Stanford scientist, Zhenan Bao which is so sensitive that it can feel the weight of a butterfly! The rubber layer is highly elastic and is moulded on top of microscopic inverted pyramids that transmit the pressure applied on it to sensors located in another rubber layer underneath. The number of the tiny pyramids can vary from a few hundred thousand to 25 million pyramids per square centimetre, depending on the level of sensitivity required.

Since it is sandwiched between two parallel electrodes, it detects the changes in pressure on the skin due to compressions and rebounds by changes in the strengths of electrical signals. It is powered by solar cells or can be powered by batteries. Its structure can be modified so that it can detect dangerous chemicals such as explosives or diagnose medical conditions by simply touching a patient. This detection of different diseases is made possible by its ability to recognise specific proteins (biomarkers) associated with that disease.

In an earlier article I had reported the development of robots which can detect your emotional condition and respond sympathetically. Now with the development of a sensitive skin that can be coated on such robots, humanoid robots that can sense a touch and respond to your emotional conditions are round the corner.

Another first from Fujitsu—wireless computer monitors

Fujitsu Japan, a world leader in the manufacture of laptop and desktop computers, servers and other computer devices, had earlier pioneered the Palm Vein Authentication technology for identification of persons (biometrics) without physical contact of their palms with the detecting device.

The company has now come out with a new breakthrough technology which will allow you to get rid of messy cables and connect computers wirelessly to monitors. Even power cables are not needed as Fujitsu uses an innovative way to transfer power—magnetic induction technology! Magnetic induction systems are simpler than the conventional radio frequency systems and use very little power to transmit signals wirelessly through the air.

Working in collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institute, Fujitsu has succeeded in developing the wireless Smart Universal Power Access (SUPA) technology that allows power and pictures to be beamed to computer monitors in a completely wireless manner. The project has been funded by the German Ministry of Economic Affairs.

In order to maintain the highest quality of the products, Fujitsu has set up large manufacturing facilities in Germany for its computers, servers and other devices—hence the Japan-German partnership. The new exciting technology was recently displayed at CeBIT 2011, the world’s largest international trade fair in Hannover, and drew large appreciating crowds.

In this wondrous world of science, truth is often stranger than fiction.




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