Not long ago, a little red Opel minivan rolled to a stop beside the port of Livorno, a seaside town in Italy’s Tuscany region. A radar dish had been strapped to the vehicle’s roof by the researchers within.
The team removed the dish from the roof, erected it on a tripod and pointed it toward the behemoth freighters lumbering in the nearby water. Then they popped the Opel’s trunk to reveal boxes of electronics crammed inside. An umbilical soon connected the equipment to the dish.
When they turned on the system’s power, they energized what might become the next generation of instruments for locating objects—a fully digital radar whose heart is powered by light.
“We are defining the position, speed and even the shape of big cargo ships in and outside the port,” lead researcher Paolo Ghelfi, an electronics engineer with Italy’s National Inter-University Consortium for Telecommunications (CNIT), tells Txchnologist. “Using a laser instead of traditional radar electronics means we can detect more accurate positions of objects. We can also detect smaller objects farther away because our system produces lower noise in the radar signal.”
World Water Day is coming up this Saturday. One of the event’s goals is to bring attention to the billion people who live without access to safe drinking water.
A major obstacle standing before that objective is a lack of the sanitation that would prevent human waste from polluting water supplies. One innovation, a solar-powered, fiber-optic-equipped toilet that requires no water and sanitizes sewage with high heat, is among several that are trying to fix the problem and improve public health.
Developed by engineers at University of Colorado Boulder, the system uses eight parabolic mirrors that focus sunlight onto an area the size of a postage stamp. This energy is then piped through fiber-optic cables to a reaction chamber that heats waste to 600 degrees Fahrenheit.