The biggest areas for disruption over the next 5 years are
Neuromorphic chips, quantum computers, photonics, AI
This will combine with robotics (self driving cars, transformed factories) and additive manufacturing to disrupt cities and industries.
Big disruption over the next ten years is likely from
a true space age via reusable rockets and robotics and additive manufacturing in space
new materials (3D graphene, solid metallic hydrogen, high ZT thermoelectrics, possible room temperature superconductors)
Supersmartphones, exoskeletons and wearable systems including power clothing could provide mobility for hundreds of millions of senior citizens
True molecular nanotechnology could also emerge and disrupt over the next ten years
More advanced nanotechnology could boost genetic engineering, advanced medicine, DNA nanotechnology and DNA nanomedicine
1. Pro-growth Policies. In 2011 NBF said to skip this theoretically achievable capability because it depended upon the 2012 and other elections and politics. This was correct in that pro-growth policies were not effectively implemented.
World economic growth has slowed.
2. Energy Efficiency – superconductors, thermoelectrics, improved grid
Superconductors are about a $3.4 billion market. They continue to make technical improvements and product improvements. They have not had disruptive impact or growth.
The new thermoelectrics could have the potential for disruptive impact but probably around the 2026 timeframe.
China currently has 17 UHV (Ultra High Voltage) transmission lines in operation or under construction Most of those lines are meant to connect to the massive hydro dams in the west of China. But many are riding to the rescue of that stranded wind and solar.
3. Energy Revolution – Mass produced fission, fusion, and maybe cold fusion
China’s pebble bed reactor was delayed from 2015 but is nearing completion. China’s HTR-PM (high temperature pebble bed nuclear reactor) project is squarely aimed at being a cost-effective solution that will virtually eliminate air pollution and CO2 production from selected units of China’s large installed base of modern 600 MWe supercritical coal plants.
It is a deployment program with the first of a kind commercial demonstration approaching construction completion and commercial operation by mid to late 2018. Major parts of the machinery will be able to be merged into the existing infrastructure. There is a proposal to construct two 600 MWe HTR plants – each featuring three twin reactor and turbine units – at Ruijin city in China’s Jiangxi province passed a preliminary feasibility review in early 2015. The design of the Ruijin HTRs is based on the smaller Shidaowan demonstration HTR-PM. Construction of the Ruijin reactors is expected to start next year, with grid connection in 2021.
Converting to nuclear power for just the burner could be done for 300-400 plants at the cost of about $1.2 billion for each that is about 600MW in size. This could be achievable by about 2040.
There are many nuclear fusion projects but they have not achieved true breakeven and are not likely to commercialize in the next ten years.
General Fusion targeting commercial reactor for 2025 and funding does not seem to be a problem.
Tri-alpha Energy – Raised about $140 million + Rusnano investment. Best funded of the smaller players
Helion energy has raised about $20 million in recent years. They will need $200 million for its pilot plant stage.
The LPP Fusion approach uses a device called a dense plasma focus (DPF) to burn aneutronic fusion fuels that make no radioactive waste, a combination LPP calls “Focus Fusion.” They are not well funded but continue to push ahead working to resolve technical issues.
Canada-based Terrestrial Energy Inc (TEI) has designed the Integral MSR. This simplified MSR integrates the primary reactor components, including primary heat exchangers to secondary clean salt circuit, in a sealed and replaceable core vessel that has a projected life of seven years. These will have far less unburned fuel (aka nuclear waste).
China is developing molten salt reactors as well.
Both Terrestrial Energy and China should have operational reactors in the 2020s.
Cold Fusion aka Low Energy Nuclear Reactions – Rossi Energy Catalyzer continues to make claims.
Blacklight Brilliant Light Power makes claims.
4. Additive manufacturing
5. Not so mundane – neuromorphic chips, quantum computers, photonics, AI
There are commercialized neuromorphic chips, quantum computers and photonic computers.
6. Automated transportation (leading to robotic cars and planes)
7. Urbanization MegaCities
China is investing tens of billions to integrate several megacities (Yangtze Delta region around Shanghai, Jing-jin-ji around Beijing and the Pearl River Delta.
8. Urbanization Broad Group skyscrapers, Tata flat packed buildings
Broad group did make about 30 some factory produced module construction buildings and even one that is about 60 stories tall. However, other skyscraper builders have blocked the SkyCity 200+ story building.
Robotics are being used for self driving cars. There are tests of self driving cars by Uber.
Robotic are being used by Foxconn to create fully automated factories 60,000 Foxconn jobs were automated in early 2016
Gigabit internet and multi-gigabit internet has had some deployments in some cities. Widespread availability could be possible with new long duration drones, stratospheric balloons and massive new satellite networks. There is a chance and perhaps likelihood of such deployments over the next 5 years. There is also the likelihood of 5G and next generation wireless providing last mile gigabit internet.
There is new 3D versions of graphene. There is the possible of solid metallic hydrogen.
12. Improve medicine and public health
See item 14.
Spacex is having large impact with lower cost launches.
By 2027, we can have
* highly efficient and low cost launch with fully reusable rockets
* water ice mining from the moon and other resources from the asteroids
* Robotic and teleoperated construction in orbits, moon and near earth asteroids
* expandable space stations
* construction of large telescope, solar power and other structures
Critical space costs could drop by 100 to 1000 times.
Lower cost reusable launches will greatly lower costs
Water and other resources from the moon will lower costs
Capabilities will ramp up and further lower costs.
14. Synthetic biology and recombineering
There are many multi-billion companies developing genetic engineering medical treatments, iRNA treatments and other advanced biology approaches.
15. Sensors everywhere
The Internet of things has not ramped up or had as much as previously predicted.
16. Education transformed and accelerated innovation
Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) market size was projected to grow from USD 1.83 Billion in 2015 to USD 8.50 Billion by 2020.
17. Supersmartphones, exoskeletons and wearable systems
Modular exoskeletons and power clothing could become affordable and effective means of providing mobility to tens of millions of seniors with mobility issues. Products are being released now and over the next few years.
Video games like next generation nintendo games will likely drive widespread wearable system adoption.
18. Memristors and other significant computing and electronic improvements. HP memristors were delayed.
Startup Knowm is selling memristor devices to improve artificial intelligence processing. Knowm’s memristor is a learning processor that works alongside existing CPU’s rather than a stand-alone processor, and is geared toward sales to researchers rather than for commercial applications
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.