Dr Philip Bell
Within the next year, Japanese car maker Nissan will introduce next generation steering technology into some of its cars that does away with the mechanical rack and pinion set up. In the new system, known as steer-by-wire, sensors detect when a driver turns the wheel, sending electrical signals to the tyres so they respond faster and with more accuracy. A camera mounted on the car's rear-view mirror will assess the road ahead and detect changes in the car's direction. In conventional steering system, the car turns via a mechanical connection between the steering wheel and the tyres.
Imagine if every outdoor surface of your house or office building could generate electricity. That could soon be a reality thanks to a team at the University of Newcastle who have invented a solar paint. The water-based lacquer contains tiny plastic particles - smaller than the diameter of a human hair - that absorb sunlight to produce electricity. The project leader, Paul Dastoor, says the ultimate goal is a paint that can be applied directly to a roof or wall, but early versions will paint the material on plastic sheets, which contain electrical wires to transmit the electricity, that can be rolled out. The solar paint could generate electricity at half today's electricity prices.
A new strain of yeast and the inedible part of sugar cane could revolutionise global fuel production. A pair of Australian brothers have developed a powerful yeast that can convert waste biomass such as sugar cane byproducts into ethanol. More than 80 billion litres of ethanol is produced from edible crops such as corn each year. Next generation biofuels aim to reduce the reliance on food crops, but scientists have struggled to produce ethanol from the woody, inedible part of plants. Geoff and Phil Bell's high-quality yeast, which has received funding from the United States and Australian governments, has overcome this problem. The pair hope to turn the first sod at a Microbiogen plant in two to three years.
Within a few months, lining up to order lunch in a crowded food court could soon be over. A Sydney entrepreneur has developed a smartphone application that allows users to order food directly from their phone. Brandtable takes advantage of near-field communication chips, found in all new smartphones (bar iPhones), which can exchange data with other nearby NFC chips. The technology is already used by credit card companies for contactless transactions. By swiping a smartphone over a Brandtable logo a user can place a food order directly with the restaurant.
How many times have you bashed a tomato sauce bottle against a bench to force the last dollop onto your plate? Scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US have invented a solution, an ultra-thin material that coats the inside surface of a bottle and allows gluggy liquids like tomato sauce and shampoo to slide right out. The slippery material, called LiquiGlide, is plant based. The team, led by engineer Kripa Varanasi, hope the material, which can coat glass, plastic, metal and ceramic, will be on the market within three years.