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Posted: April 20, 2010
MIT's Technology Review identifies ten technologies poised to change the world
(Nanowerk News) The editors of Technology Review, MIT’s magazine of innovation, have announced their annual list of the 10 emerging technologies that will soon have a profound impact on how we live and work. These innovations — each represented by a researcher whose vision and work is driving the field — promise fundamental shifts in areas from energy to health care, computing to communications. Each TR10 winner is drawn from the editors’ coverage of key fields, and is based on a simple question: is the technology likely to change the world?
The 2010 TR10 includes technologies poised to create change on a global scale: better biofuels, more efficient solar cells, and green concrete all aim to tackle climate change in the years ahead. Other changes will be more local: for example, 3-D screens on mobile devices, and social television. Some innovations promise to make our lives healthier: new ways to implant medical electronics or to develop drugs for diseases, for instance. The 10 technologies are:
Solar fuel. Joule Biotechnologies’ Noubar Afeyan has created genetically engineered microörganisms that can turn sunlight into ethanol or diesel — a feat that could allow biofuels to compete with fossil fuels on both cost and scale.
Mobile 3-D. Recent box-office hits like Avatar and Up have added to the growing popularity of 3-D movies. Julien Flack of Dynamic Digital Depth is leading the charge to take 3-D mainstream not only on TVs, but also smart phones and mobile devices, through a technology that can convert existing 2-D content to 3-D on the fly.
Dual-action antibodies. Genentech’s Germaine Fuh has found a promising way to fight conditions like cancer and AIDs through dual-action antibodies that give patients two drugs for the price of one, offering the promise of drugs that work better and cost less.
Real-time search. Amit Singhal is leading Google’s quest to mine social networks for up-to-the-second search results that offer the same relevance and quality of traditional Web searches.
Light-trapping photovoltaics. By depositing nanoparticles of silver on the surface of a thin-film cell, Kylie Catchpole of the Australian National University has found a way to boost the cells’ efficiency — an advance that could help make solar power more competitive with fossil fuels.
Engineered stem cells. James Thomson of Cellular Dynamics and the University of Wisconsin has potentially revolutionized the way we screen drugs and study disease by providing a way to make — in the test tube — any kind of cell from patients with different diseases.
Social TV. People are already trying to combine their social networks with TV, using laptops and smart phones to comment on live events like the Oscars or the Olympics. MIT’s Marie-José Montpetit is working on social TV — a way to seamlessly combine the active experience of social networks with the more passive experience of traditional TV viewing.
Green concrete. The production of cement is responsible for about 5 percent of global carbon emissions. Novacem’s Nikolaos Vlasopoulos has created a cement that is a carbon “sink” rather than a source. His innovation could greatly reduce the global carbon emissions that result from cement production.
Implantable electronics. Tufts University’s Fiorenzo Omenetto is developing implantable electronic devices that can be used to deliver drugs, stimulate nerves, monitor biomarkers, and more. And once they’ve done their job, they almost completely dissolve away.
Cloud programming. At the University of California, Berkeley, Joseph Hellerstein is creating better software for building cloud applications, and this could herald a new wave of applications for social media analysis, enterprise computing, or sensor networks monitoring for earthquake warning signs.
The 2010 TR10 will be featured in the May/June edition of Technology Review and is posted on the Web at http://www.technologyreview.com/specialreports/TR10.