Saturday 15 October 1994

Most water starved nations cannot afford the extravagance of purifying water for agriculture through conventional desalination techniques. The London-based Light Works may have just the answer: a cost-effective system for producing pure water in hot coastal regions, which is then used to irrigate crops. Its prototype greenhouse, built on the Canary Islands, uses surplus heat to convert sea water into steam, which is then condensed by a heat exchanger cooled by sea water. The system is geared to take care of the water requirements of crops both in the greenhouse and the surrounding area.

The UK-based Encrypta Electronics and the Australian Harcor Security Seals, have jointly devised a padlock that includes an electronic sealing system. The Nanlock, as the new product is called, generates a 4-digit random number on a built-in liquid crystal display every time the lock is closed. Not only does the number change every time the lock is closed, the display also indicates the duration since the padlock was closed, thus making it possible to determine the precise time of unauthorised entry.

Hi-tech electronic gadgets are the bane of environmentalists: they create disposal problems when they are consigned to the waste heap. The Japan-based NEC Corp has developed an answer to such problems -- a software programme called Ecofusion. The programme not only enables engineers to visualise a new product in 3-D and plan easy manufacture, but also contains environmental data on approximately 400 materials used in production. The company can then draw on this data to put together an environmentally-safe product, which generates the least chemical waste when it is finally junked.

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