Welcome to this week's Engineering360 news brief.
Researchers have used a precision laser to form a microstructured surface into which micro mirrors are evaporated and encapsulated in a polymer film. The resulting material is designed for insertion into a conventional double-glazed window. The micro mirrors function as compound parabolic concentrator lenses to optimally reflect sunlight with low restrictions in visibility. The researchers said this glass can reduce thermal energy consumption from heating or air conditioning systems by 10-20 percent. The prototypes were determined to divert 80 percent of light - in an almost horizontal direction — at a light incidence of 60 degrees. This capability implies improved illumination in distant corners and a beneficial influence on wintertime living conditions.
The “Skim Reaper”
How can you tell if the ATM or pay-at-the-pump card reader you are using has been compromised by a credit card skimmer? A team of researchers from the University of Florida wants to answer that question using a new device called the “Skim Reaper." The device is roughly the size of a standard credit card that can be inserted into card reader slots. Once inserted, it can quickly inform the consumer if the card reader has been outfitted with technology designed to “skim” a customer’s credit card numbers. Criminals generally install an additional “read head” either inside or outside of the machine, allowing them to copy the card information when consumers swipe them. Attached by wire to a smartphone-sized box and screen, the Skim Reaper will detect the presence of a second “read head” and will display the message “possible skimmer!” on the screen. For now, it costs $50 to make just one Skim Reaper. However, the research team expects that number to eventually go down. Still, despite the cost, officials are impressed by the simplicity of the scheme.
Wet Wipe Ban
Amid mounting concern for plastic pollution levels, the U.K. is considering an eventual ban on wet wipes containing plastic — the kind used for personal hygiene and those used to clean surfaces.
According to research, wet wipes contribute to a phenomenon called fatbergs, where mounting waste creates an impassable “berg” of garbage leading to sewer obstruction. In fact, the fatbergs are made up almost entirely (93 percent) of wet wipes alone that have been flushed after a single use. Pledging to eradicate all “avoidable plastic waste” by 2042, the U.K. government has been considering similar bans on single-use plastic products such as cotton swabs, straws and drink stirrers.
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