Department of Engineering:
The Drone James Bond Wishes Q Built
Small scale insect drones are no longer just a Hollywood fantasy. Oxford University spinout company Animal Dynamics have created Skeeter, a dragonfly-inspired drone for surveying a battlefield during combat. It has insect-like wings that can glide or flap silently, making it perfect for covert military operations.
Whereas most drones use a helicopter-style vertical rotor which can struggle in turbulent air, Skeeter's wings can handle high winds and fly much further. These tiny robots might even help us with search and rescue, surveying, and agriculture in the future.
Dragonflies are nature’s most effective predators – fast, agile and quiet – understanding this flying ace is key to this mini-drone.
Injuries affect 75% of runners; this tech could prevent them all
75% of runners suffer injuries. Could one piece of tech really prevent all of them?
Oxford researchers have developed a revolutionary 3D motion capture system that measures and maps the running styles and patterns of individual athletes, and tells them what to change and how to improve their performance.
Run3D uses multiple state-of-the-art cameras to capture every aspect of a runner’s posture. Infrared cameras are trained on tiny reflective markers stuck onto the subject, creating a computational model of the body in motion, and providing detail right down to how individual bones and joints are impacted as the body moves.
The same motion-capture technology is used in films and games, but here it could help to create the complete athlete. Complicated algorithms based on a database of runners can work out the perfect running stance.
Now you’ve got no excuse not to go for a jog!
Can this car think for itself?
Are we getting closer to being driven around in robot cars?
Oxbotica certainly think so. They’ve created a system called Selenium, which acts as a brain for any vehicle it is installed in. It doesn’t rely on GPS, so it can be used indoors and out, and even under ground.
This means the breakthrough isn’t restricted to cars – everything from airport pods to warehouse fleets could soon be controlled by this revolutionary autonomous system.
Nothing will bring these Oxford researchers down to earth – their software is going to be used on Mars rovers, helping them to navigate intelligently on the surface of the Red Planet!
Whatever the weather, however poor the visibility, however dangerous the terrain, Selenium won’t be phased like a human driver would.
So whether it is pavement pods for pensioners on the sidewalks of Milton Keynes, or machines scouring space for aliens, this car-control technology looks set to steer a very interesting course indeed!
Department of Zoology
Can we repair our bodies with silk?
Yes! Scientists from Oxford have discovered that we can use silk to replace cartilage, meaning joint replacements might become a thing of the past.
Spiders can weave silk webs that are many times tougher than steel. However they produce tiny quantities, so this company, Orthox are combining silkworm silk with the creative weaving ability of spiders to create a super strong cartilage implant that the immune system won’t reject...it could actually help the body regenerate! They melt the silk down and then form it into a robust sponge that can be moulded into different shapes for use in lots of joints in the body.
Currently surgeons need to replace an entire damaged joint, such as a hip or knee, which is a major, expensive, and painful operation. Only a third of people will take this option, and half of all people with cartilage injuries will develop arthritis. Replacement joints also take as long as 12 months to heal, stopping patients from moving and causing them intense discomfort.
This tech means they can replace a small area of damaged cartilage and get patients quickly back on their feet.
This tech could help your hips, shoulders, knees and toes...knees and toes.
Department of Chemistry
This powder is the most expensive thing on earth
What’s the most expensive thing you can buy on the planet? Gold? Diamonds? Perfume?
It’s actually something called Nitrogen Atom-Based Endohedral Fullerenes. That might be a bit of a mouthful, but some of this material has recently been sold for about £110 million per gram.
Oxford scientists at Designer Carbon Materials have developed the new material, which could be used to make incredibly accurate atomic clocks. What’s more, these clocks could be tiny. Typical atomic clocks are the size of a room.
Atomic clocks are integral in GPS systems, and the ability to make miniature ones would revolutionise not just route advice, but the possibility of driverless cars, as the accuracy of on-board atomic clocks could help GPS systems track a car’s location even where the GPS signal is weak such as through tunnels, making remote driving suddenly a whole lot safer.
The material is essentially a minuscule cage of carbon atoms, with a nitrogen atom inside, and the company reckon that in the future our smart phones could all contain mini atomic clocks.
You’d better start practicing saying “endohedral fullerenes”!
This tiny device could discover new species in the wild
Could a tiny hand-held device really help us discover new species?
DNA sequencing, a process that allows scientists to understand the genetic material of living organism, is normally a costly and cumbersome undertaking, restricted to laboratories.
Researchers at Oxford Nanopore have created a revolutionary new technology that makes sequencing possible on-the-go, with a device smaller than a mobile phone, anywhere in the world – and maybe even beyond!
The MinION passes an ionic current through tiny holes called nanopores. As DNA passes through these holes, tracking the changes in the current can then allow scientists to identify the DNA sequence.
The world’s first portable device for the analysis of biological molecules, MinION just arrived at the International Space Station, where NASA astronaut Kate Rubins will perform the first DNA sequencing in microgravity.
Down on earth, researchers have been tracking Zika in Brazil, Ebola in Guinea, monitoring lakes in Australia, plants on mountains and even recognising signs that bacteria are resistant to antibiotics.
Can you turn an orange into a grapefruit?
Capturing the scent and flavour of a grapefruit is incredibly difficult and costly.
Around 400,000kg of grapefruits are needed to produce just 1kg of the flavouring used in products such as drinks, desserts and sweets.
Now Oxford scientists have developed a way to use enzymes to modify naturally occurring compounds found in an orange… so that they smell and taste like a grapefruit!
This technology, from Oxford Biotrans, doesn’t stop at fruit. In the future everything from industrial compounds to medicines might be made this way.
Using sustainable biology to produce valuable chemicals, the process is also highly environmentally friendly, as it produces less chemical waste and consumes less energy.
What’s more, the World Wildlife Fund believe that the development and uptake of products and processes like these could save 2.5bn tonnes of CO2 per year – equivalent to taking 490 million cars off the road!
How's that for a juicy new bit of tech?
Department of Materials
These could be the pixels of the future
Could one paper-thin material really serve as heat-controlling window glazing, as well as being the future of lightweight, power-saving high-resolution screens?
Oxford scientists at Bodle have pioneered just that – a smart material that is flexible, thin, and transparent. Layers of this material could be used as futuristic glazing, able to control which wavelengths of light enter a building. That would cut down on energy costs, as spaces could be cooled effectively without the need for aircon.
Or it could replace pixels, by being used as bright and hi-tech displays – which could be viewed effortlessly, even in bright sunlight. What’s more, Bodle promises a revolution in battery-life. Your current smart-phone might struggle to make it through the day, but screens made with this smart material would use almost no power at all, meaning your phone would manage a week at least.
The technology could even be used to create unfakeable holograms that could put a stop to counterfeiting!
Not bad for something that looks like confetti!