Technology Review: 10 Emerging Technologies

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Technology Review has released its annual report on 10 Emerging Technologies of 2009.   I always look forward to this article for it consistently reports on the interesting work going on in labs and academic institutions.  The articles also provide a human element, telling us the person behind the work…how they have worked hard to innovate in the field they are researching.

The 10 emerging technologies MIT presents in this article have the potential to create fundamental shifts in areas from energy to healthcare, computing to communications.  Some of the listed technologies could reach the market within the year, others may take years, but all are expected to have a huge impact in the years ahead.  All of them are interesting to read and think about.  Here the list along with lots of links for more information.

  1. Liquid Battery:  Donald Sadoway, a materials chemistry professor at MIT, has developed a liquid battery that could store enough electricity to allow cities to run on solar power at night.   For more information:  Liquid Battery  
  2. Traveling-wave Reactor:  John Gilleland, manager of nuclear programs at Intellectual Ventures, is leading the development of a reactor that would run on depleted uranium, making nuclear power safer and less expensive.   For more information:  Traveling Wave Reactor 
  3. Paper Diagnostic Test:   George Whitesides, a professor at Harvard University, is using paper to create easy-to-use medical tests that could make it possible to quickly and cheaply diagnose a range of diseases in the developing world.   For more information:  Paper Diagnostics 
  4. Biological Machines: Michel Maharbiz, an assistant professor at the University of California, Berkeley, has developed interfaces between machines and living systems that could give rise to a new generation of cyborg devices.  Michel's wirelessly controlled beetle could one day be used for surveillance or search-and-rescue missions.   For more information:  Biological Machines 
  5. $100 Genome:  Han Cao, founder of BioNanomatrix, has designed a nanofluidic chip that could dramatically lower the cost of genome analysis.  Cao's chip could cut DNA sequencing costs dramatically.  Combined with the right sequencing technology, Cao’s chip could allow doctors to tailor medical treatment to a patient’s unique genetic profile, map new genes linked to specific diseases, and quickly identify new viruses and outbreaks.   For more information:  $100 Genome 
  6. Racetrack Memory:  IBM fellow Stuart Parkin has created an entirely new type of data storage on an ultradense memory chip using magnetic nanowires.  This “racetrack memory” could eventually replace all other forms of computer memory and lead to tiny, rugged, and inexpensive portable devices.   For more information:  Racetrack Memory   
  7. HashCache:  Vivek Pai, a computer scientist at Princeton University, has created a new method for storing Web content that could make Internet access speedier and more affordable around the world.   For more information:  HashCache 
  8. Intelligent Software Assistant:  Adam Cheyer, cofounder of the Silicon Valley startup Siri, is leading the design of powerful new software that acts as a personal aide.  This virtual personal-assistant software helps users interact more effectively with Web services to complete tasks such as booking travel or finding entertainment.   For more information:  Intelligent Software Assistant  
  9. Software-Defined Networking:  Stanford computer scientist Nick McKeown believes that remotely controlling network hardware with software can bring the Internet up to speed.   He has developed a standard called OpenFlow that allows researchers to tap into Internet switches and routers to easily test new networking technologies with the click of a mouse—all without interrupting normal service.   For more information:  Software-Defined Networking 
  10. Nanopiezotronics:  Zhong Lin Wang, a materials scientist at Georgia Tech, is pioneering the field of nanopiezotronics.  Wang is creating piezoelectric nanowires that generate electricity using tiny environmental vibrations; he believes they could power implantable medical devices and serve as tiny sensors.   For more information:  Nanopiezoelectronics 

Some of this year's choices, such as #3 – paper-based medical tests and #8 – Intelligent software that acts as a personal assistant, could reach the market within a year.  Others, like #4 – biological machines and #10 nanopiezotronics, could take longer but promise fundamental shifts in fields from computing to medicine, communications to manufacturing.  Its worth noting that three of the technologies are nanotechnology-based:  #5, #6, and #10.

For more information, see Technology Review's article 10 Emerging Technologies of 2009 .  Also the prior year's articles are also interesting to read

Science: Top 10 Scientific Breakthroughs of 2008

With the year 2008 wrapping up to an end, the Journal of Science has released its annual list of top ten scientific breakthroughs of 2008 in their December 19th issue.  

  1. Cellular Reprogramming:  A method that produces "made-to-order" cell lines by reprogramming cells from ill patients.   As this was number one on their list, there is an article that provides more detail on it: Breakthrough of the Year: Reprogramming Cells 
  2. Exoplanets:  Using a special telescope techniques, for the first time the astronomers were able to directly observe planets orbiting other stars.
  3. Expanding The Catalog Of Cancer Genes:  Researchers have been able to sequence genes from two deadliest cancer cells, pancreatic cancer and glioblastoma.  They turned up dozens of mutations that remove the brakes on cell division and send the cell down the path to cancer.
  4. New Mystery Materials:  An entirely new second family of high-temperature superconductors were discovered. These materials consisted of iron compounds instead of copper-and-oxygen-compounds.
  5. Watching Proteins At work:  It was a pleasant surprise for the biochemists to watch proteins bind to their targets, switch a cell’s metabolic state and contribute to a tissue’s properties.
  6. Toward Renewable Energy On Demand:  In order to store excess energy generated from part-time sources like wind and solar power, researchers have found a new promising tool using a "cobalt-phosphorus catalyst".
  7. The Video Embryo:  In 2008, researchers observed in unprecedented detail the dance of cells in a developing embryo, recording and analyzing movies that trace the movements of the roughly 16,000 cells that make up the zebrafish embryo by the end of its first day of development.
  8. "Good" Fat, Illuminated:  Scientists have been able to morph "good" brown fat, which burns "bad" white fat to generate heat for the body, into muscle and vice versa.  This has led to a new approach to treat obesity…
  9. Calculating The Weight Of The World:  Physicists have been successful in calculating the mass of proton and neutron from the standard model which describes most of the visible universe’s particles and their interactions.
  10. Faster, Cheaper Genome Sequencing: Researchers have been able to report a sequencing technology that is much cheaper and speedier.  The technique can be applied from woolly mammoths to human cancer patients.

For more information, check out the special section that report on the top breakthrough and nine runners-up.   Online extras include an online video presentation and a special Breakthrough edition of the Science Podcast.