We all know that technology is developing rapidly in our lifetime. Even ten years ago few of us could have predicted that we would be carrying around touchscreen computers more powerful than the bulky desktops of the day in our pockets. Such is the speed of development today that it can be hard to keep up with all the latest new technological breakthroughs but here’s a look at four of the most exciting new technologies which we could be seeing in real life soon.
The Ocean Cleanup array
Boyan Slat is a young Dutch guy with a big idea and the will to seriously do something about it. While most of us were scrabbling for the seat closest to the window in class, he was inventing a technology that could seriously help to clean up the oceans.
His idea is fairly straightforward but ingenious. Firstly a massive array of floating barriers, anchored to the sea bed, would catch and concentrate the floating plastic. The floating rubbish would then move along the barriers towards a central rig, where it could then be easily extracted. The ocean current would pass underneath the barriers, taking all buoyant sea life with it. There would be no emissions, and no nets for marine life to get entangled in. The collected ocean plastic would be recycled and made into products – or oil.
The Ocean Cleanup’s own research predicts that using a single 100 km long system, deployed over a decade could potentially remove up to 42% of the great pacific garbage patch, which covers an area so impossibly large it’s hard to imagine. They hope to deploy their first large scale array in the North Atlantic in 2020.
One for Star War’s fans, the creatively named Laser Weapon System or LaWS is exactly what its name suggests – a huge weaponised laser mounted on a battleship designed to take down incoming drones and aircrafts.
Designed by the US Navy, LaWS uses an infrared laser beam which can be turned from low power, which would warn or cripple the sensors of incoming aircraft (and blind any people in the way) to high power which can shoot down a drone in two seconds or be used against smaller boats or helicopters to target vital parts and knock them out. The navy released this video to publicise its demonstration.
The reason they developed it? Cost. Missiles are expensive, really expensive, like more than $800,000 each in some cases. Meanwhile each shot from the LaWS system reportedly costs about $1, though it does require its own power source and generator at the moment. Although not all scientists are impressed and we do not know whether it will change the world for better or worse, it is a technology that seems remarkably futuristic.
Google’s Internet Balloons
Google’s Project Loon is an attempt to give everyone, everywhere, access to the internet. Google want to do this by sending Wifi broadcasting, solar powered, helium filled balloons 20 km into the sky. It sounds mental but the results so far have been positive, well mostly.
Most of us in Ireland have access to quick and reliable broadband connections. In other nations this is decidedly not the case. In the Ivory Coast, Somalia and many other countries less than 3% of the population has access to the internet, in Ireland its 78%. Worldwide, one in three kids don’t have access to a secondary education, using the internet teachers could come to them via video even in the remotest locations, the same with doctors. Farmers would be better able to plan with the weather and find where they could get the best price for their produce. It’s these types of areas in which Google intends to make a difference. And of course the extra advertising revenue wouldn’t hurt either I’m sure.
100 times stronger than steel, a great conductor of electricity, practically see-through but impermeable to gases and liquids it’s not surprising that graphene has been called a wonder material. Its discoverers, Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov from Manchester University, won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010 for their discovery.
Originally created by using sticky tape to pull layers off a lump of graphite (the “Lead” in your pencil) new processes are being discovered constantly such as smaller powerful lightbulbs and in 3d printing which will hopefully lead to easy and cheap production of the material. Currently graphene is found in few commercial applications, such as tennis rackets, outside of research but this is set to change in the next few years
There are so many potential uses for this new material, batteries that can charge to full in seconds instead of hours, super-fast computers, filters to make sea water drinkable, touchscreens that use graphene could be put onto plastic instead of glass meaning super thin, light and unbreakable screens and that’s just scratching the surface.