Electric avenue to be tested in Israel

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  • Technology

    A FUNDING boost for the European Space Agency has put its Mars rover on track for launch in 2016.

    European ministers agreed on 26 November to give ESA 10 billion over the next three to five years, an increase of 1 billion on its previous allocation. As well as the ExoMars mission to look for signs of Martian life , the extra cash will help fund a new generation of meteorological and Earth monitoring satellites, and a heavy-lifting upgrade of the Ariane launcher. ESA is also considering adapting its supply ship for the International Space Station to carry astronauts.

    The funding should also help boost the high-tech economy in Europe in the face of a global recession. In a period of economic crisis, this is the time to invest in the future, says ESAs director general Jean-Jacques Dordain.

    AN ENVIRONMENTALLY friendly road that positively welcomes heavy traffic may sound odd, but by placing piezoelectric crystals under the asphalt that convert vibration into electricity, Israeli engineers hope to harvest energy from passing vehicles.

    Developer Haim Abramovich at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa says the

    50million dollars. The amount the US army will spend over the next five years to develop combat training games for soldiers

    ANY child can make a butterfly print, but doing so on an industrial scale is far from childs play.

    Butterfly wings and lotus leaves are able to repel water with ease because of the microstructures on their surface. The densely packed microscopic bumps of the lotus leaf and the waffle-like structures found on butterfly wings both make it difficult for water droplets to spread out. As a result, the drops roll off, and they take dirt with them. This makes the surfaces ideal as the basis for self-cleaning windows and windshields.

    However, creating such surfaces is tough because it means creating a template using lithographic techniques usually reserved for chip making. This makes it costly and slow, and limits the size of surfaces that can be produced,

    says Christophe Peroz at the French National Centre for Scientific Research in Aubervilliers.

    So he and his colleagues developed a cheaper and quicker technique that involves pouring a silicon-based polymer liquid over an actual wing or leaf and leaving it to dry. They then peeled off the solid polymer and used it as a mould for methyltriethoxysilane (MTEOS) an agent used in glass-making which can be changed from a liquid to a gel by spinning it. The MTEOS is poured onto the mould and spun, forming a 900-nanometre-thick film (Bioinspiration and Biomimetics, DOI: 10.1088/1748-3182/3/4/046004).

    To create a large water-repellent surface for a window, for example, many films can be combined.

    WATER OFF A BUTTERFLYS BACK

    crystals can produce up to 400 kilowatts from a 1-kilometre stretch of four-lane highway. His spin-out company, Innowattech , also based in Haifa , will begin testing the system on a 100-metre stretch of road in northern Israel in January.

    Installing the technology need not produce unnecessary greenhouse gases, says Abramovich: Were advocating that the system be fitted to roads only during routine maintenance, so theres no extra digging.

    Is fish waste the fuel of the future? Finlands VTT Technical Research Centre launched a three-year project last week with European and Vietnamese partners to make biofuel from fish-processing waste. The partners in Enerfish are building a pilot plant in Vietnam beside a factory run by Hiep Thanh Seafood, which generates 120 tonnes of fish-processing waste every day.

    US special forces are testing a smart fabric that will help them monitor the health of their troops. Developed by Zephyr Technology in Auckland, New Zealand, it contains sensors and conducting fibres that detect breathing rate, posture, skin temperature and the soldiers activity levels, and transmits the data back to base via the soldiers radio.

    GIZMO

    European ministers plan to limit fees

    for cross-border text messaging,

    cutting the average from 0.29 to 0.11

    The European Parliament is expected to back the move

    WISH U WR HERE

    Europeans should soon get less of a shock when they check their cellphone bill after a holiday

    Nafsiah Mboi, secretary of Indonesias National AIDS Commission, on a proposal to require people with HIV to have a microchip implanted. The plan was floated by member of parliament John Manangsang, who believes it will halt rising infection rates in the province he represents (ABC online, 25 November)

    Its against human rights and we will never accept it

    Pretty repellent

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    Extra cash for Mars mission

    Rumbling down Electric Avenue

    www.newscientist.com 6 December 2008 | NewScientist | 25