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In brief
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In brief
June 17, 2010   
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Warsaw Archeologists Sweat it Out in Libya

A group of archeologists from the University of Warsaw are investigating a historic building known as the House of Leukaktios in Ptolemais, a coastal city of ancient Cyrenaica that is now part of Libya.

The House of Leukaktios is a luxury building dating from the 3rd/4th century AD and decorated with a huge number of mosaics. In the eastern part of the building, the archeologists have found a cistern that served to provide the residents with water.

The archeologists’ newest finds have thrown light on the building’s history after an earthquake in the year 365. It was then that the building’s function changed. Artists and craftsmen were brought in and it is some of their work that has been unearthed. Among the finds are five round containers built into the floor of the eastern courtyard. They were used for the production of wine in the second half of the 4th century. At the end of the 4th century and the beginning of the 5th they were used instead for the storage of oil for lamps. The archeologists have established that the site was also used much later, after the second half of the 7th century. They discovered a wall running parallel to the street, among the ruins of the eastern part of the building.


Samuel the Fun Robot

A team of students and graduates from the Wrocław University of Technology have designed and built an anthropomorphic robot called Samuel. The robot is capable of showing 21 different emotions and can say some 30 lines in the voice of Cezary Studniak, a Polish actor from Wrocław’s Capitol Musical Theater.

The robot is currently welcoming guests to the centenary celebrations of the Wrocław University of Technology but could in the future have many useful social applications, the designers say.

“At the moment Samuel is a fun robot that is tasked with welcoming anyone coming into its vicinity,” said Jan Kędzierski, the project leader. “We are planning to use Samuel in an international project called Living with Robots and Interactive Companions (LIREC). One day Samuel may be able to aid older or disabled people in the running of their daily lives.”

Samuel is programmed to say different things and accompanies speech with suitable facial expressions. He has a camera in each eye, which registers what is happening around him. Over each eye he has four eyelids, one of which takes the place of eyebrows. Thanks to the eyelids, Samuel can show emotions and close his eyes. The robot’s lips are two thin strips and shape themselves like human lips with the help of four power sources.

Samuel’s head can turn and move from side to side thanks to a mobile neck that allows movement in two perpendicular directions.

The robot is also able to discern from which direction sound is coming from. In a situation where he is surrounded by many people, Samuel will focus on the person from whom he is picking up the loudest sounds.


New Type of Engine Patented

Two inventors from the northeastern city of Olsztyn, Krzysztof Nikoluk and Zygmunt Wolski, have patented a new type of gaseous-fueled engine as well as equipment to produce electrical energy from steam at low pressure known as “System Anna.” The inventions are designed to produce cheap energy and recover waste heat.

The steam equipment transforms high gas pressure into liquid pressure, which in turn can be used to power turbines and produce electricity. The gas pressure required is much lower than in other systems of this type, according to Nikoluk and Wolski.

Their engine works by cyclic compression and expansion at different temperatures, resulting in a net conversion of heat energy to mechanical work. It is similar to the Stirling external combustion engine but differs in that it works at lower temperatures and therefore at lower pressures, the inventors say. Thanks to its unique design, resistance is lessened and the engine is more efficient, according to Nikoluk. The relationship between the total energy contained in the fuel and the amount of energy used to perform useful work can be as high as 35 percent, Nikoluk says.

When the engine is coupled with “System Anna,” efficiency rises to 50 percent, Nikoluk adds. To compare, a Stirling engine has an efficiency of some 30 percent, internal combustion engines 22-24 percent, gaseous-fueled engines 18 percent, and steam engines only 7-10 percent, according to the inventors.

The newly patented engine can be powered by various heat sources be they steam, coal or gas.

Nikoluk and Wolski say their engine is flat and can be used to recover energy that would be otherwise lost.


Protective Textiles

The Textile Research Institute in the central city of ŁódĽ is coordinating a project that aims to develop new-generation fabrics to protect people and things from electromagnetic fields. The project is called Envirotex and its leader is Jadwiga Sójka-Ledakowicz, Ph.D. The textiles should be ready by September 2012, the institute says.

“We are using a completely new method of coating textiles that are designed to protect against electromagnetic-field forces,” says Sójka-Ledakowicz. The method involves spraying very thin layers of a mixture of metals, conductors and semiconductors on to the surface of the product.

The project team is also working on textiles with UV protection against both natural and artificial ultraviolet light sources. The latter is particularly harmful because of long exposure to people working in close proximity to hospital anti-bacterial lamps and lamps used to check the validity of bank notes. The researchers want harmful light to be absorbed by the material and not reach the skin.

Funding for the Envirotex project is partly coming from the European Regional Development Fund under the European Union’s Innovative Economy Operational Program. Other institutions involved in the project, besides the Textile Research Institute, include the Wrocław University of Technology, the Moratex Institute of Security Technology, the Poznań University of Technology, the Nofer Institute of Occupational Medicine in ŁódĽ, and the Central Institute for Labor Protection in Warsaw.


A Robot or a Fish?

A team of graduates from the Mechanics Department of the Cracow University of Technology have designed an underwater mobile robot that moves and looks like a fish.

The robot, called CyberRyba (CyberFish), is silver with black fins, 60 cm long and weighs almost 3.5 kg. The designers are Marcin Malec, Marcin Morawski, and Dominik Wojtas.

CyberRyba can move around on its own or be radio-controlled via a computer or mobile phone. It is equipped with a camera and a variety of sensors. Its uses include reconnaissance of areas of water.

CyberRyba’s silver body is made of plastic and its black fins from soft rubber. It cost around zl.2,000 to build, the makers say.

CyberRyba is equipped with two sets of batteries, which allow it to swim for some five hours when fully charged, according to the designers.

Tadeusz Belerski
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