Thanks to rapid computing developments in the last decade and the miniaturisation of electronic components, people can, for example, track their movements and monitor their health in real time by wearing tiny computers. Researchers are now looking at how best to power these devices by turning to the user’s own body heat and working with garments, polka dots and know-how from the textile industry.
Storing power generated by strong winds or bright sunshine by turning it into liquid fuel such as methanol can help to ensure green energy does not go to waste, without having to rely on batteries.
On the southern outskirts of the city of Owensboro in Kentucky, US, there is a square, nondescript building. Inside, rows and rows of small plants are growing under artificial lights. This is a new generation biotech venture: a molecular farm. Others are springing up across the US and elsewhere – and they farm vaccines. This means that if we find a coronavirus vaccine that works, their produce could be used by households worldwide.
If humans are to travel to distant destinations in space like the moon or Mars, they’ll need ways to live for long periods of time. And one of the key challenges of that includes how to have safe food and water to eat and drink when far from Earth.
Robots that use artificial intelligence to recognise the health of fruit and vegetable crops and when they’re ready to harvest are being trialled to help small, organic and greenhouse farmers with weeding and patrolling for pests.
By harnessing the power of strong winds at higher altitude than turbines reach, airborne wind energy could be another key source of renewable energy, but it will need a combination of successful designs, more robust software and good storytelling to really take off.
New prosthetic technologies that stimulate the nerves could pave the way for prostheses that feel like a natural part of the body and reduce the phantom limb pain commonly endured by amputees.
Different people respond to medication in different ways – and the results can be fatal.
Prof. Christine Stabell Benn is studying the wider effects of common vaccines.
Dr Kate Rychert studies ocean plate structures.