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Sat Jun 25 23:20:34 SAST 2016

Creation nation: What lies ahead

Tanya Farber | 04 January, 2016 00:06
IN THE LOOP: The mini ecosystem developed by the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. The system simultaneously grows vegetables and breeds fish, all with renewable energy
Image by: ESA ALEXANDER

We will soon be able to swallow a nanochip with a sensor inside that can diagnose bacterial infection far quicker and more cheaply than previous tests.

Nanochips

The locally invented device, due to be commercialised by April, will cost a fraction of the old tests and will yield results within 15 minutes as opposed to the many days it usually takes to get results from blood, sputum and stool tests.

The breakthrough was made by scientists at the University of Stellenbosch over the past two years.

Miniature ecosystem

Scientists at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology hope to bring their "mini ecosystem" to communities this year.

The tiny ecosystem, which can fit in a small backyard, breeds fish, grows vegetables, and uses and saves solar energy.

The fish are placed in round containers. Solar energy warms the water to the optimal temperature and solar cells convert sunlight to electricity to power the pumps. The water from the tank, combined with waste products from the fish, flows into a bed in which vegetables have been planted and is then recirculated.

With a bit of plumbing, a single unit could be extended to neighbouring yards.

Exploring a child's brain through the eyes

A team at UCT is working on perfecting a technique for the early detection of excess pressure on the brain in children.

Three years of research and accuracy studies on more than 200 children have led to a method that relies on ultrasound to measure the expansion and contraction of the eyeballs caused by pressure on the brain. Until now it was necessary to drill through the skull to gauge the pressure and patients would have to be sedated and kept in a high-care ward for up to 48 hours. The new technique utilises machines that are portable, relatively cheap, and can be used in basic rural clinics.

This year the team will simplify the technique so that health professionals other than neurosurgeons can use it.

Search-and-rescue robot inspired by a cheetah's tail

A team of electrical engineers at UCT came one step closer last year to creating the ultimate search-and-rescue robot - one that can find and pull survivors and bodies from the debris at the scene of a disaster such as an earthquake.

This year, they will probably get closer to their goal.

The engineers studied how a cheetah uses its tail for stability during high acceleration, quick turns and sudden braking in developing their robot .

The cheetah flicks its tail to maintain its balance when braking very quickly, and traces out a cone with its tail when making a wider turn while running at high speed .

Simulating the stabilising abilities of a cheetah's tail is a painstaking process that could save many lives.

Circumcision underpants

Uyindoda MMC underpants made waves last year and the team that invented them to ease the pain of medical circumcision is hoping to get support from the Department of Health this year.

The underpants come with a soft adjustable casing attached to a soft belt. This helps to avoid post-snip irritation caused by the dressing over a circumcision wound.

The novel garment was endorsed by the Cape Peninsula University of Technology last year and the team now hopes to bring not only the Department of Health on board, but also communities that practise circumcision rituals.

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