Technology Bulletin

Police check driver, vehicle details in seconds

Researchers at the Centre for Communication Interface Research (CCIR) at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, have developed a prototype speech-recognition and synthesis system that allows police officers to interrogate the National Police computer directly from their vehicles. The system lets officers obtain the name and other details of a car owner from the vehicle's registration number within seconds, says Dr. Andrew Sutherland, deputy director of the CCIR. They radio directly to a speech-recognition system at the local police station, speaking the car's registration in phonetic form. The system then recognizes the number and forms a query in the correct form for the central police registration database at Hendon. Result: Name and address of the vehicle's owner is returned to the local police station in electronic form. It is then converted into audible form by a speech synthesizer and spoken back to the requesting officer via radio link. The system is designed to free police control-room operators from the mundane task of vehicle checks, explains Sutherland. For more details, FAX Sutherland at +44 131 650 2784.


Researchers develop IC process for quantum-effect chips

Researchers at Toshiba's Cambridge Research Centre in England, working with Cambridge University's Cavendish Laboratory, have developed a method of wafer scale fabrication of circuits with structures only 10 atoms across. Using molecular beam epitaxy (MBE), patterned semiconductor layers are built up instead of the conventional practice of diffusing impurities into the material. This technique overcomes the fundamental limit of the silicon process set by the wavelength of light. Quantum-effect devices hold promise for single-electron optical memories, novel forms of laser, very fast logic, and almost instantaneous switching. For more details, FAX Professor Michael Pepper in the UK at +44 1223 423686.


Rust-resistant steel extends life of reinforced concrete

Materials scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, have developed a rust-resistant steel that could save billions of dollars on the repair or replacement of concrete bridges and buildings. Fermar(TM)steel resists corrosion when used as reinforcing bar-known as re-bar-in concrete. Made from scrap metal, re-bar is among the cheapest steels and is used in virtually every concrete structure in the world. Structures with rusted re-bar are rendered unsafe because their internal skeleton has corroded. The process used to make Fermar differs only slightly from that used by American re-bar manufacturers today, yet produces a steel that has remarkable corrosion resistance and superior fatigue properties compared to standard re-bar, say engineers. They claim it can be made without any major new expense on the part of steel companies. For details, FAX Gareth Thomas at (510) 643-0965.


Non-combustible material reduces ozone levels

Researchers at Hoechst Aktiengesellschaft, Germany, have developed a material that they say acts as an ozone filter. Called noXon, the material is targeted for use with equipment such as air-conditioning systems and air-circulation units in hospitals, schools, workplaces, and the home; road vehicles; airplanes; and even laser printers and copiers. Here's how it works: Air contaminated with ozone passes through a filter fitted with a plastic granulate at room temperature. During this process the ozone

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