Few technologies have the potential to disrupt old institutions as much as blockchain – a system that maintains records on huge networks of individual computers. As with any new technology, it could be used for social good – such as supporting people who are priced-out of the current bank accounts – but the big challenge is how to limit its unintended consequences.
At the smallest of scales, science can become rather weird. So weird in fact that metals and other materials can be altered to completely change their properties, such as making them resilient to water or bacteria.
In 30 years’ time, industrial companies will have a social purpose: be completely carbon neutral and give everyone the opportunity to fill their unique potential. At least, that’s what five young industrial leaders hope. We caught up with them as they attended the EU’s Industry Days in Brussels, Belgium, on 5-6 February to find out what needs to happen to fulfil this vision.
On a hot day in August 1972 toward the end of the Vietnam War, dozens of naval mines off the coast of Hai Phong in North Vietnam began to explode without warning. In March 1989, a magnetic surge tripped circuits, knocking out power in the entire Canadian province of Quebec. While in 1859, an event sparked telegraph lines, igniting fires, and northern lights so bright that British stargazers could read newspapers at night. These days, scientists know that all these events were caused by intense space weather, capable of wreaking havoc on electric grids and electromagnetically sensitive technology.
At first glance, it almost sounds crazy. Can we really take carbon dioxide emissions from an industrial plant and store them underground? To find out, research is currently taking place to test if such an idea is not only viable but safe, and prove that to the public.
Sandwiching an oxygen-rich layer of silicon between a solar cell and its metal contact has allowed researchers in Europe to break performance records for the efficiency with which silicon solar cells convert sunlight into electricity. But the challenge now is how to make these so-called passivating contacts suitable for mass production.
Scientists are ramping up efforts to turn waste CO2 from industry into chemicals such as methanol in a bid to reduce emissions and provide a new source of raw materials for use in fuel, cement and food production.
Video games that are specifically designed to test and improve children’s social and emotional skills could enable parents and teachers to spot issues and help children improve their behaviour and performance at school as well as in later life.
A new type of use-by label for milk bottles that decomposes as the liquid inside goes sour could appear on UK supermarket shelves later this year. Labels such as these, capable of telling consumers exactly when fresh produce has gone bad, are being developed by scientists who want to stop food from being prematurely discarded. If successful, these indicators have the potential to reduce the millions of tonnes of valuable food thrown away each year.
Removing immune-stimulating sugars should also help people with red meat allergies.
Newly domesticated horses may have increased the spread of disease.
Dr Michaël Gillon on what's next for exoplanet science.