3D printing, self-healing materials and energy-efficient water purification were tagged by the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Emerging Technologies as breakthroughs last year, but what does the future look like in 2014? Something that won’t come as a surprise is the key role of advanced materials in driving technology to the next level, as illustrated by our highlights from the 2014 list –
- Body-adapted Wearable Electronics
- Nanostructured Carbon Composites
- Grid-scale Electricity Storage
- Nanowire Lithium-ion Batteries
- Brain-computer Interfaces
Small, lightweight and flexible components together with specialized coatings to protect products from sweat and rain. Applications include navigation aids, health monitoring devices and surgical tools.
Lighter, stronger materials for more efficient vehicles, which are easy to recover and reuse.
More affordable alternatives to pumped storage hydropower for overcoming the intermittent nature of clean energy. Concepts being explored include flow-batteries and graphene supercapacitors.
Ramping up battery energy density will extend the range of electric vehicles and increase the running time of mobile devices. Results suggest that designs based on silicon nanowires could deliver 30-40% more electricity than today’s lithium-ion batteries.
The challenges here build on those of body-adapted wearable electronics to include biocompatible materials and thin film technologies to protect implanted electronics.
Barriers to technology translation
As well as announcing its top 10 emerging technologies for 2014, the council has also voiced its thoughts on major hurdles in the translation pipeline –
“Uninformed public opinion, outdated government and intergovernmental regulations, and inadequate existing funding models for research and development are the greatest challenges in effectively moving new technologies from the research lab to people’s lives.”
Global Agenda Council on Emerging Technologies.
Related stories on the web –
What’s the future for wearable technology? (forumblog.org)
Emerging technology as an agent for change (forumblog.org)