EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES OF 2009

Here is a list of technologies of 2009 that can transform the way we live our lives.

Traveling-Wave Reactor

Using atomic reactors to produce electricity is another method. The problems associated with it massive and costly as well. Enriching uranium and opening the reactor to refuel it are some of the most burdensome jobs associated to it. Removal of used fuel and reprocessing it to recover usable materials have similar problems. The problems or running a nuclear plan do not end here, other risks involved are production of nuclear weapons and environmental pollution.

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A group of scientist from Intellectual Ventures have designed a reactor called a “traveling-wave reactor” that requires small amounts of enriched fuel, whose atoms can easily be split in chain reaction. The race to make new and better reactors hard to win and in such a competitive environment a privately funded research company has come up with this design.

Based on design and theory according to the manager of nuclear program and Intellectual Ventures this reactor slowly converts the nonfissile material into the required fuel and such a reactor can run for a couple of hundred years.

The aim of this reactor is to run of what is waste for a conventional nuclear-reactor. Conventionally Uranium-235 is used as a fuel which is extracted from Uranium-238 in special enrichment plants. Hundreds of fuel bundles are added to the reactor and changed after every 18 – 24 months, thus enhancing the chances of proliferation since the reactors that make uranium for power reactor have very slight difference from the one that make highly enriched uranium for a bomb. But a traveling wave reactor only needs a thin layer of enriched uranium-235. Most of the core is uranium-238. Uranium-238 is present in abundance around the world as a it is the leftover and is of no further use in the reactor.

According to Charles W. Forsberg, the executive director of the Nuclear Fuel cycle project at MIT, it is "the simplest possible fuel cycle," and "it requires only one uranium enrichment plant per planet."

“SIRI” – AN INTELLIGENT SOFTWARE ASSISTANT

In today’s world when we are given a task, we look for the key words and look/search for it on the internet using search engines and try to gather information. What if you have something that does not only search information for you but also do your work.

It is not impossible, Adam Cheyer, ice president of engineering at Silicon Valley says that they are working on a “do engine” rather than a search engine called “Siri”. The software takes into account the user’s content, making it highly useful and flexible. He says, “In order to get a system that can act and reason, you need to get a system that can interact and understand,”

Siri got its foundations from a military funded artificial intelligence project called CALO (cognitive assistant that learns and organizes).

The initial version of Siri is expected this year and its target users will be cell phone users. Siri is connected to multiple servers at the same time so instead of only doing one job it can do multiple jobs at the same time. For now it will only do the basic jobs such as reservations at a restaurant and planning weekend activities etc. It will have two Input modes, both audio and text. Siri will save its users time and would do small tasks at one time such checking flight schedules and getting a reservation done.

100$ GENOME

In a corner of a small lab owned by BioNanomatrix is a door marked: “$100 Genome Room-Authorized Persons Only”. Here it is believed that the entire human genome can be read in eight hours for $100 or maybe even less.

The cost of the procedure right now is $1000 but it is believed that the cost will come down to $100 within five years. The reason why they are so confident is because now for the very first time the very long strands of individual DNA molecules can now be isolated and imaged separately with the help of a chip that uses nanofluidics and series of branching.

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RACETRACK MEMORY

Stuart Parkin an ex-worker of IBM hard Drive business spent his career studying the fundamentals of physics of magnetic materials. He made several discoveries that revolutionized a hard disk drives memory storage capacity.

He developed a new way of storing information. It can store much more information than the conventional magnetic hard drive, more durable than an electronic flash memory and has processing speed much better to both.

"Our idea is totally different from any memory that’s ever been made," he says, "because it’s three-dimensional." Says Parkin.

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BIOLOGICAL MACHINES

The technology today has enabled man to make things so small that reaching any place and doing anything is possible.

You see a giant flower beetle flying around, you think he is enjoying his flight but in real it is not in control of the path it takes and the maneuvers it does. This bug is in control of an engineer who is controlling it wirelessly with the help of an implanted receiver, microcontroller, microbattery and six carefully placed electrodes. The beetle lives but is help less because jolts of electricity are sent to its brain and wing muscles allowing the beetle to take off, turn or even stop in mid flight.

The size of the beetle is of great importance here. A micro camera or heat sensors can be installed on it and used for rescue purposes, reaching areas otherwise impossible to reach

 

PAPER DIAGNOSTICS

George Whitesides, a professor at Harvard University has joined one of the oldest technologies of mankind, paper to advanced microfluidics. It is used to checked small amounts of urine or blood for proof of infectious diseases and chronic conditions. This is made keeping in mind the idea to have something uncomplicated, cheap to make and strong enough to be used in rural areas.

Manufactured product is a small piece of paper, square in shape. The edge of the paper is dipped into blood or touched to urine. The liquid is absorbed and flows into the small testing wells present in the paper. The colour of the paper changes depending upon the type of chemical present in the liquid, changing the colour of the paper to blue, red, yellow and green. Using the colour change different results can be deduced.

The shape of the paper is kept square to allow maximum its capacity to absorb. It is approximately the size of a coin.

 

Liquid Battery

All around the world there is deficiency of power and everyone is trying to save as much as possible. Much is being done to utilize resources that had been neglected till now. The best and mostly available source is the sunlight. The technology available now is allowing the user to convert sunlight to electricity but the problem is to store this energy so that is can be used at night time.

A way of storing this energy is the new battery with all liquid active materials. The prototypes of this invention have shown that they cost less than the conventional batteries and can last longer too. It is flexible and can absorb large amounts of electricity, this is because its electrode is molten metal and electrolyte is molten salt. Thus reducing the cost and convenient to make.

Donald Sadoway, a materials chemistry professor at MIT, one of the inventors of the battery says, “The electrodes can operate at electrical currents tens of times higher than any [battery] that’s ever been measured,”

The prototype showed that it is easy and convenient to manufacture. It was a container surrounded by insulating material and filled with molten materials of different densities so they do not mix. Antimony on the bottom, Sodium Sulfide (an electrolyte) in the middle and magnesium at the top. The container filled with different molten materials become is then used as current collector.

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