This is the third set of highlights for Next Big Future for 2009.
1. DNA origami can now make three dimensional boxes that can be opened and closed and locked. The boxes could be the foundation of more complicated three dimensional structures and can be used for drug delivery and other purposes.
2. DNA can be tricked into acting as nanotechnology building blocks. DNA nanotubes built one rung at a time with different triangular and square shapes.
7. Researchers at the University of Illinois have developed a membrane-penetrating nanoneedle for the targeted delivery of one or more molecules into the cytoplasm or the nucleus of living cells. In addition to ferrying tiny amounts of cargo, the nanoneedle can also be used as an electrochemical probe and as an optical biosensor.
18. A method which eliminates the radiation damage problem is a Two-Step Photon Intermediate Direct Energy Conversion (PIDEC) method that uses the efficient generation of photons from the interaction of particulate radiation with fluorescer media. The photons are then transported to wide band-gap photovoltaic cells where electrical current is generated. PIDEC holds the promise of 40% energy conversion efficiency in a single cycle. PIDEC can be applied both to large power generation systems and to small scale nuclear batteries based on radioisotopes (Radioisotope Energy Conversion System-RECS).
19. Independent certification that EEStor’s patented and patent pending Composition Modified Barium-Titanate Powders have met and/or exceeded a relative permittivity of 22,500. This is a high relative permittivity which is good for EEStor’s supercapacitors. EEStor’s supercapacitors could hold more charge than a battery but have the quick discharge and recharge.
20. Mascoma, a cellulosic biofuels company based in Lebanon, NH, reports significant advances in its goal of simplifying the cellulosic ethanol process by skipping the use of costly enzymes, which could potentially reduce cellulosic ethanol’s production costs by 20 to 30 percent.
21. ET Energy’s Electro Thermal technology could be used to pump out 600 billion barrels of Alberta’s oil sands bitumen. That’s more than triple the Alberta government’s best guess at what’s currently recoverable from the oil sands, and enough to satisfy total global demand for twenty years.
Saudi Arabia has 260 billion barrels of oil reserves, so the additional 421 billion barrels would be close to double the oil in Saudi Arabia.
The radical italian Kitegen wind power system appears to have funding of 15 million euro (announced not distributed).
Metamaterials and Materials
25. Researchers from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology propose to use transformation optics [advanced metamaterials] to generate a general illusion such that an arbitrary object appears to be like some other object of our choice. This is achieved by using a remote device that transforms the scattered light outside a virtual boundary into that of the object chosen for the illusion, regardless of the profile of the incident wave. This type of illusion device also enables people to see through walls.
26. Michal Lipson and pals at Cornell University and Xiang Zhang and buddies at UC Berkeley say they have both built cloaks that are essentially mirrors with a tiny bump in which an object can hide. The cloaking occurs because the mirrors look entirely flat. The bump is hidden by a pattern of tiny silicon nanopillars on the mirror surface that steers reflected light in a way that makes any bump look flat. So anything can be hidden beneath the bump without an observer realising it is there, like hiding a small object under a thick carpet.
A special material called spin ice, co-discovered in 1997 by Professor Steven Bramwell of the London Centre for Nanotechnology has come close to revealing a secret of the universe.
Most computer memories store information magnetically, and if there was the ability to use magnetic rather than electric charges to read and write bits to and from those stores could have great advantages in speed and flexibility. What’s more, the three-dimensional configuration of spin ice might allow for memories of much higher density than is currently possible.
The monopoles discovered in spin ice are rather different beasts from those he and others were looking for. For a start, they are some 8000 times less magnetic and are free to move only within the spin ice, not to roam the wider universe. So they are not really analogous to electric charges, and it doesn’t look as if they are going to solve the dark matter problem.
Computers, Displays, Robots, Devices
27. Pixel Qi is a fabless ASIC company that specializes in screens. The screen is just a big ASIC chip – we work closely with the large LCD factories. The trick – we use their standard processes and materials and can produce new screens with radical new performance in about a year. Rather than just a demo – we can get all the way to high volume mass production in a year.
Pixel Qi screens will use 1/2 to 1/4 the power of a regular LCD screen, and when integrated carefully with the device can increase battery life between charges by 5-fold.
28. MIT TEchnology Review reports A new approach developed by Philips now offers fresh hope for color e-paper displays that are so bright and clear that even traditional liquid crystal displays (LCDs) will pale in comparison.
The new approach has the potential to create color images that are three times brighter than displays that use color filters, including LCDs. Another aspect that could make in-plane electrophoretics more attractive: the fact that it relies on cheaper and simpler electronics to address the pixels. Electrophorectics promise the possibility of cheaper, flexible displays with brighter colors.
Electrofluidic Display Technology is another alternative for color e-book displays.
Electrofluidic Display Technology (EFD), the first technology to electrically switch the appearance of pigments in a manner that provides visual brilliance equal to conventional printed media.
The Red 400 original files were mastered as 16bit TIFFs (4096×2304), roughly 51MBs per frame. That’s an uncompressed data rate of 1.3GBs per second. Blu-Ray is 1440X1080 and has 1920×1080 as well. So the Red 400 is about 5-6 times gthe resolution of Blu-ray. The Red 300 was mastered as 10bit DPX (4096×2048) at roughly 32MBs per frame or about 750MBs per second.
The compression was to 10 Mbps or less and able to be transmitted over wifi.
30. Artificial bacterial flagella are about half as long as the thickness of a human hair. They can swim at a speed of up to one body length per second. This means that they already resemble their natural role models very closely.
ETH Zurich researchers have built micro-robots as small as bacteria. Their purpose is to help cure human beings.
AI and Quantum Computers
32. Sentience driving software can control a car or trucks acceleration and braking and enable 5-24% fuel savings and could be installed in vehicles starting in 2012. It is also a transition path to completely robotic driving. For about $30 to install ion each car or truck the system would save an average of 14% of fuel usage.
In evening tests on public roads in ‘real-world’ conditions in the vicinity of TRL (Transport Research Laboratory), achieved mean savings at all times in excess of 5 per cent.
33. A series of announcements that will multiply the productivity of scientific research and enhance the ability of lay people to have scientifically correct results. These new programs and robotic systems will be further enhanced with the increasing use of cloud computing, robotic and sensor advances and increased computing power from things like GPGPU.
Space and Long Range Predictions
34. Justin A. Atchison of Cornell University University proposes creating miniturized spacecraft with all systems made using computer chip technology and using only the active layer to achieve a weight of 7.5 milligrams or less.
35. There is progress working in the lab and in theory how to create reconfigurable spacecraft. The dynamics and control problems have been worked on in theory, math and simulation and the joints have been mocked and tested on an air table. Success would transform space operations and systems and enable large particle based solar sails, large optical telescope arrays and large lens for focusing lasers and networks of satellites and flexible modules for space stations.
Stem cells, gene therapy and advanced medicine
36. A university lecturer has succeeded in regenerating hair on mice using embryonic stem cells, an achievement that could pave the way for the development of treatments for conditions including hair loss, it has been learned.
This could lead to a baldness cures for humans and eventually to improved regeneration and healing of other organs in humans.
The drug teriparatide, or Forteo, which was approved by the FDA in 2002 for the treatment of osteoporosis appear to also boost bone stem cell production for “miraculous bone healing”.
39. NABsys scientists, in close collaboration with scientists at Brown University, are developing a proprietary platform to build solid state, electrically addressable nanopore arrays that can sequence DNA without amplification or labeling. This Hybridization-Assisted Nanopore Sequencing platform combines nanopore sequencing with sequencing-by-hybridization (SBH) to create what NABsys believes will be the lowest cost [$100 to sequence the genome], fastest whole-genome sequencing technology available.
40. Molecular-level computer simulations of dendrimer/DNA complexes in the presence of a model cell membrane provide insights that directly pertain to critical issues arising in emerging gene delivery therapeutic applications. This work “Dendrimers as synthetic gene vectors: Cell membrane attachment” appeared in the Journal of Chemical Physics.
Key Finding: Dendrimers should be able to work effectively for gene therapy and cancer drug delivery. Dendrimers are known to be safer than virus delivery of genes and drugs but to this point have been less effective. This work shows how to increase effectiveness.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.