#1200: StrutSplint

Struts are often used in engineering systems, usually mutually cross-braced. Today’s invention attempts to provide these members with a form of adaptive internal strengthening.

Each strut (not necessarily of circular cross-section) has within it a conduit. This contains a strong, light metal rod. The rod can be moved along the conduit by a pneumatic pressure difference created by a pump fitted to one end.

When a strut is stressed, and begins to bend to a specific extent, the periodic passage of its rod may be locally slowed (which can be detected as resistance to the drive pressure, which is then removed in response).

This allows a rod to be automatically positioned at the point of maximal bending -reinforcing it before damage occurs.

When the stress is removed, rods can continue to patrol. A more advanced version of this idea involves the use of multiple reinforcement rods at different locations within each strut.

#1199: Reweaver

Today’s invention is a combined knitting and washing machine.

Clothing could all be made in a single sheet design. This would be designed to be completely unravellable, so that it could be pulled into a very small washing machine as a single, long fibre. This would allow washing to occur very efficiently -and also very quickly.

As the fibre emerged from the machine, it could be fed directly into a knitting machine (ie an automated loom). This would recreate some new, flat garment, whose pattern program could be selected from an online catalogue.

One’s entire wardrobe would thus fill only a few sacks of fibre and allow all wearable items to be made on the fly and to fit an individual perfectly. There might even be an intervening re-dyeing step, to change the colour of one’s outfit according to eg the season.

#1198: Smartshield

Armored vehicles, such as the bulletproof vehicles used by heads of state are often equipped with reactive armour. When a missile makes an impact, this detonates a surface charge on the vehicle, potentially nullifying the attack.

Today’s invention takes this a step further. When two or more impacts have occurred on such a target, an on-board computer records these and calculates where the most likely subsequent hit will occur (linear extrapolation would be a good first guess).

At this location, reactive armour can become proactive. This might involve firing a shield mechanism so that impact occurs between shield and missile at a greater stand-off distance from the vehicle body (or, it might be possible to populate the outer vehicle surface with protective plates capable of being moved rapidly across it, by a magnetic field pulse, to provide local reinforcement).

#1197: Aeroskin

Today’s invention is an enhancement to existing aerofoil design.

A motor powers a set of sprocket wheels embedded within the body of an aircraft wing, near the leading edge. This drives a carbon fibre belt, which moves as shown.

This arrangement speeds the flow over the top surface of the aerofoil, without increasing drag on its lower surface, resulting in a significant increase in lift without a large weight increase.

(It also helps reduce ice build-up on wing surfaces).

#1196: Focushot

If you have to use a shotgun to hunt flying food, today’s invention might help. This consists of a shotgun with barrels which move independently.

If a gamebird is being tracked from the hunter’s right to left, an accelerometer in the butt senses this and drops the left barrel by a fixed amount.

The right barrel is fired first and automatically followed milliseconds later by the left one. This allows the recoil from the right to raise the left one to be more nearly on target, optimising the placing of shot around an unfortunate bird.

If the bird is flying left to right, the sequence is automatically reversed.

#1195: On-hold

We are surrounded by electronic kit that is nicely streamlined and therefore all as easily droppable as a bar of soap.

Today’s invention is an alternative to having an accelerometer on board to switch off any internal hard disk just as our favourite shiny toy hits the deck.

Touchscreens are ten a penny, so imagine having one on both the front and rear face of eg your smartphone. These would be of the type that sense any kind of pressure, not just skin contact.

Place the device on a table or remain holding it and it works fine. Remove all sources of surface contact (ie drop it) and the whole thing immediately interprets that as “I’m falling” and moves into crash resist mode.

(This might involve eg deploying some kind of small airbag or operating an internal motor to reorientate the system in flight for minimal damage when hitting the floor).

#1194: Eyeopener

People apparently find people with large pupils attractive (as if they have been dilated by the action of various hormones).

Today’s invention is cosmetic contact lenses which have a clear section in the middle but a dark section around that which makes the natural pupil look much wider than reality (and thus more attractive).

(You can see through the clear window in the middle, but to an observer this looks exactly as dark as the adjacent dark band).

#1192: Loopulls

Today’s invention is a variable-strength version of Velcro.

The hooks would be as before. The other side would be made of loops which are each joined on one end to another backing layer, as shown.

Pulling this layer downwards would change the length of the loops. Those loops engaged with hoops would then be more strongly retained to their hooks, boosting the strength of the bond.

The spacing between loop layer and its backing layer, might be altered by having eg pneumatic tubes or even piezocrystals placed between them.

This provides a means by which the strength of bond could be made to vary in a controlled way from place to place and as a function of time.

#1191: Screenstopper

Car drivers are now beset by a large range of electronic information. GPS, radio and performance diagnostics all demand attention that might better be directed towards events on the road.

Several vehicles now have a touchscreen which provides access to all of these sources of information and entertainment…this seems like a bad idea from a road safety viewpoint. Even if mounted somewhere a driver can see it without constantly glancing down, it’s still a less than optimal solution.

Today’s invention is to equip such touchscreens with an algorithm which senses the amount of fiddling about that a user is doing. If this exceeds a certain time limit (which might decrease with the speed of the vehicle), then it would issue a warning to park -or switch off the display until velocity = zero.