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What are the top 10 emerging technologies of 2020?

Senior Writer, Formative Content

By testPublished 6 months ago 5 min read

These include microneedles for painless injections and electric planes.

The international community is scrambling to work on a Covid-19 vaccine, and there are encouraging signs that we may be successful in record time. But can technology help us win faster in similar situations in the future?

Digital models—high-tech alternatives to human volunteers—enable clinical trials to progress faster and safer. However, among the top 10 emerging technologies for 2020, it is not the only technological innovation that could disrupt industry, healthcare and society.

From electric aircraft to technological sensors that can "see" behind corners, this year's list is full of inspiring new inventions. Experts sifted through a large pool of candidates to identify a set of new inventions that have the potential to disrupt the status quo and lead to real progress.

Here are the top 10 emerging technologies for 2020.

1. Microneedle for painless injection and assay

These tiny needles are less than a sheet of paper deep and less than a human hair wide, yet they can give us painless injections and blood tests. "Microneedles," which pierce the skin without touching nerve endings, can be attached to syringes and patches, and even mixed into ointments. The technology allows blood tests to be done at home and sent to a lab or analyzed on the spot. And, because the use of microneedling does not require expensive equipment or a high level of training, assays and treatments can be distributed to underserved areas—making medical care more accessible.

2. Solar Chemistry

We need to use fossil fuels to make many important chemicals. But a new approach promises to reduce those emissions by using sunlight to convert waste carbon dioxide into useful chemicals. New advances in the sunlight-activated catalysts needed for this process bring us one step closer to creating "solar" refineries that can use waste gas to make practical compounds such as pharmaceuticals, detergents, fertilizers and cloth.

3. Virtual patient

If the goal of replacing real people in clinical trials with models to make trials faster and safer sounds simple, the science behind it is anything but simple. The first step is to input high-resolution image data of human organs into a complex mathematical model that controls organ function. Next, computer algorithms work out the resulting equations and create virtual organs that function like real ones. These virtual organs or body systems can replace real people during the initial testing phase of drugs and treatments, making the process faster, safer and cheaper.


4. Spatial Computing

As we've seen with virtual reality and augmented reality programs, space computers take the fusion of the real and digital worlds a step further. Like VR and AR, it can digitize objects connected through the cloud, allowing sensors and motors to react in tandem to create a digital version of the real world. But it goes a step further by adding spatial mapping, allowing a computer "coordinator" to track and control the movement and interaction of objects as people move through the digital or real world. This technology will bring innovations to the way humans interact with machines, which can be used in industrial, healthcare, transportation and domestic scenarios.

5. Digital Health

Digital health won't replace doctors anytime soon, but these apps that monitor physical conditions or manage treatment could help doctors enhance care and support patients with limited medical resources. Many smartwatches already monitor the wearer for abnormal heart rhythms, and similar tools are being developed to help patients with breathing disorders, depression, Alzheimer's, and more. Pills containing sensors are also being developed -- sending data to apps to help monitor body temperature, stomach bleeding, cancerous DNA, and more.

6. Electric Aviation

Electric propulsion could allow air travel to significantly reduce carbon emissions, fuel costs and noise. Many organizations, including Airbus and NASA, are working on technologies in this area, and while long-haul electric flight may not be available anytime soon, coupled with cost and regulatory hurdles, this The field is still favored by a lot of investment. About 170 electric aircraft projects are underway, mostly in private, corporate and commuter travel businesses - but Airbus says it could have an electric plane capable of carrying 100 passengers by 2030.

7. Low carbon cement

Cement is an important component of concrete. At present, the annual production of cement is 4 billion tons, and the production process requires the combustion of fossil fuels, which accounts for about 8% of global carbon dioxide emissions. With the development of urbanization in the next 30 years, cement production will rise to 5 billion tons. Researchers and startups are working on low-carbon technologies, including fine-tuning the ratio of raw materials in the manufacturing process, using carbon capture and storage technologies to eliminate carbon emissions, and removing cement from concrete entirely.

8. Quantum Sensors

Imagine self-driving cars that can "see" behind a corner, or portable scanners that monitor human brain activity. Quantum sensors could make these things and more imagined a reality. Quantum sensors operate with extreme precision by exploiting the quantum properties of matter—for example, using the difference between electrons in different energy states as the basic unit. Most of these systems are complex and expensive, but humans are developing smaller, cheaper systems for new uses.

9. Green hydrogen

The only by-product from the combustion of hydrogen is water - which becomes "green" when electrolyzed using renewable energy. Forecasts earlier this year suggested that green hydrogen would have a $12 trillion market by 2050. Why? Because it can help decarbonize various industries and thus play a key role in the energy transition - such as shipping and manufacturing - these industries are more difficult to electrify because they require high-energy fuels.

10. Whole Genome Synthesis

Advances in technology required to design gene sequences have been introduced into microbial research, making it possible for humans to print more genetic material and alter genomes more broadly. This could give humans insight into how the virus spreads, or facilitate vaccine manufacturing and research into other treatments. In the future, this technology could be used to continuously manufacture chemicals, fuels or building materials from biomass or waste gases. It could even allow scientists to engineer pathogen-resistant plants, or let us design our own genomes—opening the door to possible abuse, of course, but also hope for the treatment of genetic diseases door.


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