Top 10 Emerging Technologies
From breath sensors that diagnose diseases to wireless charging of low-power devices, this year’s top technology list is full of innovative technological advances related to the environment, health, infrastructure, and connectivity. From a multitude of candidates, experts have handpicked new technologies that have the potential to disrupt the status quo and bring real progress.
Here are the top 2023 emerging technologies of 5.
Progress in decarbonization
A century after scientists suggested that excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere causes the atmosphere to retain heat and cause global warming, global efforts to drive decarbonization in all aspects of everyday life continue. Against this backdrop, governments and industry have made important promises for the future to reduce carbon emissions.
Delivering on these commitments will require the unprecedented expansion of new technologies to industrial levels, including large-scale energy storage, low- and carbon-free chemical sources, redeveloped rail transport, carbon sequestration, low-carbon agriculture, and zero-emission vehicles and power supplies, over the next three to five years. At the same time, consensus-based compliance needs to be monitored on a global scale.
Crops that make their own fertilizer
Currently, more than 1 million tons of nitrogen fertilizers are used annually in the world to increase crop productivity. What if, like legumes such as soybeans and beans, crops could take in nitrogen on their own and “fix” it in the form of ammonia? Now, researchers are aiming to self-fertilize non-leguminous crops such as corn and other grains as one of the most advanced emerging technologies.
As one approach, research is underway to mimic the symbiotic relationship between legumes and bacteria and to create nodules that can produce and store nutrients that exist in legumes. In addition, research is being conducted to produce nitrogenase, which is an important component in converting atmospheric nitrogen into ammonia suitable for plants, from soil bacteria that normally live in the roots of cereals and do not form nodules.
Diagnosing a disease with just an exhale
In the near future, patients may be able to test for diseases simply by exhaling. The new breath sensor can diagnose diseases by sampling the concentration of more than 800 compounds in human exhaled breath. For example, as diabetes is suspected when high acetone concentrations in exhaled breath are suspected, the sensor detects changes in electrical resistance as compounds in exhaled air pass through metal oxide semiconductors and algorithmically analyzes the data shown.
While this new technology needs to be refined for adoption, a study conducted in Wuhan, China, in March 2023, showed that the sensor was surprisingly high in detecting the novel coronavirus at 3% accuracy and 95% sensitivity in patient identification.
Making medicines on demand
Today’s pharmaceuticals are typically produced in large batches and are only completed through multiple processes around the world. The process uses hundreds of tons of material and can take months to complete, challenging consistent and reliable supply. However, advances in microfluidics and on-demand drug manufacturing have made common medicines able to be manufactured on demand as needed. The number is growing, albeit small.
This process, also known as “continuous flow manufacturing,” involves transferring raw material to a small reactor via tubes. The drug can be manufactured in a portable machine in remote areas and field hospitals and can be administered to individual patients. However, the challenge is to reduce the high costs required for this new technology.
Radio signal energy
IoT refers to billions of electronic devices connected to the Internet and performing their functions. IoT sensors that report data critical to daily life are often very low-power devices, but maintaining a charge is a challenge due to limited battery life and often impossible to physically connect in the local environment once installed.
With the advent of 5G, radio signals of sufficient power are now provided, so that small antennas within IoT sensors can now “harvest” energy from that radio signal. As a precursor to these new technologies, automated “tags” have long been used using radio signals emitted by drivers as they pass toll booths.
Aiming for a longer “healthy life expectancy”
The World Health Organization (WHO) predicts that from 2015 to 2050, the proportion of the global population aged 60 and over will increase from 12% to 22%, almost doubling. Aging is associated with both acute and chronic diseases such as cancer, type 2 diabetes, dementia, and heart disease.
Researchers are early on to elucidate the molecular mechanisms of aging, which may allow us to live healthier lives, not just live longer. Using omics technology (a technique that can simultaneously quantify all gene activity and all protein concentrations in a cell) and epigenetics knowledge, researchers can identify biological markers that are strong predictors of disease and target aggressive treatments.
In order to meet the world’s food supply and demand, fertilizers made from ammonia are necessary in crop production. And in large quantities. In addition, in order to synthesize ammonia for fertilizers, an energy-intensive method called the Haber-Bosch process is used, which requires an enormous amount of hydrogen. Currently, much of hydrogen is produced by electrolysis, which uses electric power to break down water molecules, and by high-temperature cracking of hydrocarbons, and both require energy, so a huge amount of greenhouse gases are generated.
Now that renewable energy sources are becoming more widespread, “green” hydrogen that does not emit greenhouse gases is being produced. Not only does green hydrogen not emit excess carbon from the atmosphere, but it also does not contain polluting chemicals that would otherwise be introduced when fossil fuels were used as a feedstock, providing more efficient catalysis and promoting the production of purer ammonia.
Going wireless for biomarker devices
No one likes injections. However, common acute and chronic illnesses frequently require blood draws of various sizes to monitor biomarkers that are important for understanding progress, such as cancer treatment and diabetes. Advances in low-power wireless communication and new chemical detection technologies using both optical and electronic probes are enabling continuous, non-invasive monitoring of critical medical information.
More than 100 companies have introduced or developed wireless biomarker sensing devices for a variety of applications, focusing on diabetes, which is on the rise worldwide. Wireless communication allows remote healthcare professionals to instantly obtain data when needed.