Ford reveals solar-powered car

Ford C-Max Solar Energi Concept Car
The concept car has a solar panel system on the roof that could power the car to run for up to 21 miles just on electricity

Ford has unveiled plans for a prototype solar-powered hybrid car.

The Ford C-Max Solar Energi Concept has a solar panel system on the roof which tracks the position of the sun. The company said it can draw power equal to a four-hour battery charge.

Fully charged the car could travel for up to 21 miles powered just on electricity.

The concept car will be on display at CES in Las Vegas before testing begins to see if production is feasible.

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The limited capability for solar panels means that we won’t see them used as the main power source anytime soon”

Damion Smy Car Magazine

The solar panel roof will use a separate off-vehicle solar concentrator lens, similar to a magnifying glass, to ensure it absorbs enough energy. The Fresnal lens will follow the movement of the sun from east to west and direct sunlight to the solar cells which project researchers say boosts the impact of sunlight by a factor of eight.

‘Charging socket’

Ford claim that a day’s worth of sunlight will produce the same performance from the Solar Energi Concept as is given by their conventional plug-in hybrid car. Both vehicles would have the same range of 620 miles.

The concept car – which was developed from a collaboration between Ford, the Georgia Institute of Technology and SunPower Corp, a solar power company – will still have a conventional electrical charging socket so its charge can be topped up from the power grid.

But Ford claim that by using the solar power system drivers will not be dependent on the grid to use the car.

Research from the company suggests that in future the sun could power up to 75% of all trips made by an average user in a solar hybrid vehicle.

However, it may be a while before solar panel cars are a common sight on the road, said Damion Smy from Car Magazine.

“What Ford has done here is clever use of solar technology, as it assists battery charging.

“Solar power could be used to run ancillaries, such as air-conditioning, but the limited capability for solar panels means that we won’t see them used as the main power source anytime soon,” he said.

Another car manufacturer reported to be unveiling new technology at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is Audi. They will be showcasing cars which use the Android operating system, which is normally found on smartphones and tablets, at the event which starts on the 7 January.

Surgery implant has ‘huge potential’

Kevin Senior
Kevin Senior can lift his left arm, but not his right

Researchers in Oxford have developed a degradable implant which they say has huge potential to improve surgical success rates.

The protective patch, which wraps round soft tissue repairs, will be trialled in patients with shoulder injuries.

It is hoped in time this approach could help patients with other conditions including arthritis, hernias and heart defects.

The implant has been developed using a mix of modern and ancient technology.

Kevin Senior experiences pain every time he lifts his right arm. He has torn the tendons in his shoulder. Mr Senior, who is 59, is a plumbing engineer, so this gives him serious difficulties in his work.

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We’ve used modern technology to produce very fine fibres which have the extraordinary ability to direct the way cells behave”

Professor Andrew Carr University of Oxford

Even combing his hair or shaving causes him problems.

He is looking forward to having an operation next year at Nuffield Orthopaedic Hospital in Oxford.

“It’s very frustrating but obviously you’ve got to do the best you can. Hopefully when it’s repaired I’ll be able to do everything, but as it stands now, you just struggle on.”

There are 10,000 of these shoulder repair operations carried out each year in England and Wales. The figure has risen by 500% in the last decade. But one in four procedures is not successful, because the tendon tears again.

The surgeon who will operate on Kevin Senior’s shoulder, Professor Andrew Carr, has led a research project to improve the success rate and ensure a quicker recovery. This collaboration between the university and the hospital trust helps move ideas quickly from the lab to the clinic.

Professor Carr’s team have developed a protective patch – an implant which wraps around the surgical repair, like a splint.

One side is made of resilient woven material, to help it withstand the stresses of movement after surgery.

The other side is made of thread spun a hundred times finer than human hair.

A loom was used to help make the implant

Its surface encourages cells to grip and bond, as they would naturally in a much younger patient.

Ancient technology

Professor Carr says the results in laboratory tests have been encouraging, and they hope to start clinical trials in patients soon.

“We’ve used modern technology to produce very fine fibres which have the extraordinary ability to direct the way cells behave, and “wake up” tired and ageing cells, and make them want to heal, whereas previously they weren’t being made to want to heal.

The material in the patch is degradable, and disappears after a few months. Professor Carr says this is important for patients in their 40s, 50s and 60s who want to get back to work and may well live for several decades.

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Scientists may look very technological, but they are very fond of simplicity and crafts ”

Osnat Hakimi, University of Oxford

“Once the repair process has taken place we would rather not have a piece of foreign material sitting in someone’s body for the rest of their lives, because experience has shown us that ultimately the body will respond and reject that tissue.”

The project uses the best in modern and ancient technology. Alongside the humming, whirring and beeping of the latest laboratory gadgetry, is the click and snap of a manually operated wooden handloom – perfect for producing the patch’s protective cover.

One of the team, Osnat Hakimi, says the loom enabled them to use small quantities of expensive fibre and investigate its properties.

“Scientists may look very technological, but they are very fond of simplicity and crafts. Using our hands is something we do a lot in the lab. So actually working with a handloom is something that went down quite well.”

The implant helps to bind the tissue repair

Less than 5% of government funding for medical research goes on surgery, but Professor Carr says this approach is relatively inexpensive, and has huge potential to benefit patients.

“We might be able to use it for other applications such as early arthritis management where we want to regenerate cartilage, repair of hernias, repair of bladder walls, repair of heart defects.”

Eye Reflections in Photos Could Help Solve Crimes

Eyes are supposed to be windows to the soul — but they make even better mirrors. And what they reflect will astonish you.

Researchers studying the incredible level of detail in modern digital photographs were able to pick out the tiny reflections of faces hidden in the eyes of the subject. By zooming in on the subject’s eyes in high-resolution, passport-style photographs, they were able to pick out the faces and accurately identify them.

“The pupil of the eye is like a black mirror,” said Rob Jenkins, of the Department of Psychology at the University of York. “To enhance the image, you have to zoom in and adjust the contrast. A face image that is recovered from a reflection in the subject’s eye is about 30,000 times smaller than the subject’s face.”

Working with Christie Kerr, of the School of Psychology, University of Glasgow, Jenkins recovered the images of bystanders that were as small as 27 pixels across (1 megapixel is about a million pixels). Yet when presented to panelists in a face-matching task, observers were able to match the diminutive faces 71 percent of the time. When the faces were familiar ones, people recognized identity correctly 84 percent of the time.

“Our findings thus highlight the remarkable robustness of human face recognition, as well as the untapped potential of high-resolution photography,” Jenkins said.

The pictures were taken with a high-end, 39-megapixel Hasselblad camera, snapped while the onlookers were close to the subject and the room well lit. But with smartphones that pack increasingly better digital sensors, even ordinary photos may soon capture a similar level of detail.

The Nokia Lumia 1020 has a 41-megapixel camera, for example; AT&T sells the phone for just $199.99.

The researchers say that in crimes in which the victims are photographed, such as hostage taking or child sex abuse, reflections in the eyes of the photographic subject could help to identify perpetrators.

Images of people retrieved from cameras seized as evidence during criminal investigations may be used to piece together networks of associates or to link individuals to particular locations.

Young people are sexting – but that doesn’t mean they necessarily want to be, says research

More than half of young adults have engaged in ‘unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner

With the rise of smartphones and Snapchat, sexting is in vogue – but a new study has found that many young people engage in the practice without really wanting to.

More than half (52.3 per cent) of young adults have engaged in “ unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner”, according to research to be published in February in the journal Computers in Human Behaviour.

Most did so for flirtation, foreplay, to fulfil a partner’s needs, or for intimacy, but women were more likely to consent to unwanted sexting because of anxieties about their relationships.

The research, which was carried out by scientists at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), polled 155 undergraduates in committed relationships on their sexting habits.

Fifty-five per cent of the female respondents said they had previously engaged in unwanted sexting, while 48 per cent of men had done the same.

The results show similarities between sexual behaviour online and off: in both cases, couples will willingly go along with sex, even when they do not feel like it, from reasons ranging from satisfying their partner to avoiding an argument.

But while women are often considered to engage in unwanted sex more than men, the research shows only a small difference in the number of men and women partaking in unwanted sexting.

The authors of the article argued “gender-role expectations” could be to blame. Men might be more likely to agree to undesired sexting because doing so is “relatively easy and does not require them to invest more into the relationship,” while women might be discouraged from virtual sex because it fails to help them attain their relationship “goals”.

The survey also showed that people who were anxious about their relationships were more likely to send begrudging sexts, in a bid to alleviate fears about alienation or abandonment by their partners.