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Widescreen iPods

When Apple produced its video iPod last year, many questioned whether people would really enjoy watching video on a 2.5-inch screen, especially when they have to hold the digital player up to their faces - not very comfortable or practical when travelling.

Now groovy eyewear supplied by MicroOptical Corporation allows users to watch video on what appears to be a 27-inch screen while maintaining some element of portability.

MicroOptical claim their Myvu technology is ?see-through, see-around?. The gadget works by delivering the image from two tiny liquid crystal displays that are smaller than a fingernail through a series of lenses directly to the eyes.

The technology allows you to carry on activities such as walking, ironing and washing the dishes while watching the screen because you can look above, below and around the screen to see other things.

However, MicroOptical, which also makes night-vision goggles for US army tank drivers, don?t intend Myvu glasses to be worn while driving down the motorway.

The goggles attach via a cable to the iPod headphone port and a battery pack which will phased out in later versions. They also work with other non-Apple video players.

While the manufacturers say sound is crystal clear and viewing is much more comfortable than on the iPod?s small screen, at $269 each the price of the glasses is closer to the iPod itself than most other digital player accessories.

MicroOptical Corporation: http://www.microoptical.net/

Micro-Geiger counter

With Nuclear power in favour again and the prevalent fear of ?dirty? bombs being used in a terrorist attack, it follows that we could benefit from more efficient means of testing for radiation.

Scientists at the University of Michigan have developed a tiny wireless Geiger counter which could be placed unobtrusively in stadiums, underground stations and shopping centres to detect radiation and decide if it?s a harmful source.

Because the postage stamp-sized appliance is wireless, many of them can be used in a network to provide blanket detection across large public spaces and communicate information to a central monitoring system.

Geiger counters work by picking up electrical discharges which are produced when gas sealed inside the device comes into contact with radiation. This creates electrons and ions that break down the gas to produce a signal that the Geiger can read.

However, a typical geiger counter is about the size of a breadbin and has to be carried around manually with experts covering potentially large areas on foot.

The team managed to scale down their geiger counter to the size of a wristwatch by enclosing the gas in a silicon and glass microstructure. Then it was discovered that because of this new structure, the electrical discharges produced radio frequency signals that could be picked up by an ordinary radio.

The scientists incorporated permanent magnets on to the device, increasing its strength well within the range for broadband wireless communication. This wireless capability allows the micro-Geiger counter to be networked over large spaces and to communicate to a central monitoring station.

University of Michigan: http://www.umich.edu/

Nano-paper

Scientists have assembled nanowires to create a tough yet flexible ?paper? that they claim has a myriad of potential uses from controlled drug release to battle armour.

The paper offers both strength and flexibility as it can be folded, bent and cut, or used as a filter, yet it is chemically inert, remains robust and can be heated up to 700 degrees celsius.

A team from the University of Arkansas mimicked traditional paper-making but instead of meshing natural fibres they used long nanowires made from titanium dioxide.

The wires were created using a hydrothermal heating process, and these were then used to form free-standing two-dimensional membranes which are white in colour and look like normal paper. The paper can then be shaped into three-dimensional shapes like tubes, cups and bowls.

The developers, who have applied for a patent, foresee the technology?s use in a myriad of applications including body armour, flame-retardant fabric, bacteria filters, oil cracking, controlled drug release, decomposition of pollutants and chemical warfare agents.

University of Arkansas: http://www.uark.edu/home/

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