Monday, February 28, 2011

Car got brain too

Swedish car manufacturer Volvo has developed a new pedestrian detection system which it says can bring a car to a halt automatically whenever someone steps out in front of it. The "support function", which works by using radar and camera technology to watch out for vehicles and pedestrians ahead of the car, is designed to save lives on urban streets, said the company.

The system kicks in at speeds of up to 35kmph, although the technology "is active at all speeds", according to Volvo.
In case a collision is imminent, the system sends an audio warning to alert the driver, and if there is no response the car is immediately brought to an emergency stop, the Daily Mail reported. However, the technology that "is active at all speeds" doesn't work at night or in poor weather. But Volvo pointed out that "it is always the driver that is responsible for driving safely".

14% of all those killed in car accidents in Europe are pedestrians; this figure stands at 11% in the US.

Volvo estimates that its detection system would reduce the number of pedestrians killed by more than 20%, while the number of those seriously injured would fall by almost 30%.

In a further 30% of incidents, a collision would be entirely avoided, Volvo said. The collision warning system is also programmed to react if the vehicle in front is at a standstill or is moving in the same direction. The system is an optional extra in the Volvo XC60, S60 and V60.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

How to conduct electricity by using Plastic

Plastics usually conduct electricity so poorly that they are used to insulate electric cables. But, now scientists claim to have created a new array of plastics that can conduct electricity just like metal does. By placing a thin film of metal onto a plastic sheet and mixing it into the polymer surface with an ion beam, an international team has shown that the method can be used to make cheap, strong, flexible and conductive plastic films.

"What the team has been able to do here is use an ion beam to tune the properties of a plastic film so that it conducts electricity like the metals used in the electrical wires themselves, and even to act as a superconductor and pass electric current without resistance if cooled to low enough temperature," Prof Paul Meredith of University of Queensland, who led the team, said.

To demonstrate a potential application of this new material, the team produced electrical resistance thermometers that meet industrial standards. Tested against an industry standard platinum resistance thermometer, it had comparable or even superior accuracy. "This material is so interesting because we can take all the desirable aspects of polymers - such as mechanical flexibility, robustness and low cost - and into the mix add good electrical conductivity, something not associated with plastics.

It opens new avenues to making plastic electronics,"Prof. Adam Micolich of University of New South Wales, a team member, said. Team member Andrew Stephenson said the most exciting part about  the discovery is how precisely the film's ability to conduct or resist the flow of electrical current can be tuned. It opens up a broad potential for useful applications. "In fact, we can vary the electrical resistivity over 10 orders of magnitude. In theory, we can make plastics that conduct no electricity or as well as metals do - and everything in between," he said.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Antibody to fight Cancer

A joint team of Indian and Australian scientists claims to have achieved a breakthrough by creating an antibody which could be used for developing a "medical smart bomb" that would help seek out and eradicate the root of cancer-the stem cells.

The international project is a collaboration between Australia's Deakin University and Indian Institute of Science in Banglore along with Barwon Health's Andrew Love Cancer Centre and Chem Genex Pharmaceuticals.

The team has, in fact, created the world's first RNA aptamer, a chemical antibody that acts like a guided missile to seek out and bind only to cancer stem cells, the Cancer Science journal reported.

The adtamer has the potential to deliver drugs directly to the stem cells and too be used to develop a more effective cancer imaging system for early detection of the disease, say the scientists. The Director of Deakin Medical School's Nanomedicine Program, Professor Wei Duan, said that the development of the aptamer had huge implications for the way cancer is detected and then treated.

Duan said "The survival rates for many cancers remain poor, due partly to the inability to detect cancer early. To provide a cure for cancer we must accurately detect and eliminate the cancer stem cells."