"From income inequality to climate change, technology will play a key role in finding solutions to all the challenges facing the world today," said Jeremy Jergens, chief technology officer of the World Economic Forum. "This year's emerging technologies demonstrate the rapid development of human innovation and give us a glimpse of a sustainable, inclusive future.
Making this list involves more than bringing major benefits to the world. Emerging technologies must actively disrupt the existing order, be attractive to investors and researchers, and expect to achieve considerable size in the next five years.
These are the top ten emerging technologies in 2019:
1. Bioplastics for circular economy
Less than 15% of the world's plastic is recycled, and the rest is incinerated, discarded or sent to landfills. Biodegradable plastics offer a solution, but lack the strength of conventional materials. A breakthrough idea is to promote a circular economy by using cellulose or lignin in plant waste, which can increase the strength of the material without using crops that could otherwise be used as food.
2. Social robot
Today's robots can recognize sounds, facial expressions and emotions, interpret speech patterns and gestures, and even make eye contact. Droid's friends and assistants are becoming part of everyday life and are increasingly being used to care for the elderly, educate children and perform various tasks between the two.
Making phones, computers, and other electronic devices use smaller lenses that go beyond the capabilities of traditional glass cutting and glass bending techniques. However, advances in physical technology have led people to use metal lenses to replace the miniaturization and weight reduction of existing lenses. These slim, thin and flat lenses can replace existing bulky glass lenses and can further reduce the size of sensors and medical imaging equipment.
4. Disordered proteins as drug targets
"Inherently disordered proteins" are proteins that can cause cancer and other diseases. Unlike conventional proteins, they lack a rigid structure and therefore change shape, making them difficult to treat. Now scientists have found a way to prevent shape distortion long enough for the treatment to take effect, opening up new possibilities for patients.
5. Smarter Fertilizer
Recent improvements in fertilizers focus on the ability to slowly release nutrients when needed. However, they still contain ammonia, urea, and potassium salts, which can damage the environment. The new fertilizer uses more eco-friendly nitrogen sources and microorganisms that improve plant uptake.
6. Collaboration Telepresence
Imagine a video conference, not only can you feel that you are in the same room as other participants, but you can also really feel the touch of each other. The combination of augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (AR), 5G networks, and advanced sensors means that businessmen in different locations can physically exchange handshake, and doctors can work remotely with patients as if they were in the same room.
7. Advanced food tracking and packaging
Approximately 600 million people consume contaminated food every year, so the source of the outbreak must be found immediately. Now, using blockchain technology to monitor every step in the entire supply chain of food, it only takes a few minutes to track the days that took days or even weeks. At the same time, the sensors in the package can indicate when the food is spoiled, reducing the need to waste the entire batch after it expires.
8. Safer nuclear reactor
Although nuclear energy does not emit carbon dioxide, the reactor still has a safety hazard, that is, the fuel rod may overheat, and when mixed with water, it will generate hydrogen, which then explodes. But new fuels are emerging that are unlikely to overheat, and if overheated, they will produce almost no hydrogen. These new configurations can replace existing fuel rods with almost no changes.
9. DNA data storage
Our data storage system consumes a lot of energy and cannot keep up with the massive (and growing) amount of data we generate. In less than a century, they will reach their limits. But groundbreaking research is using DNA-based data storage, a low-power alternative to computer hard drives with huge capacity: one estimate suggests that all data in the world can be stored in a single year Square DNA cube.
10. Utility-scale renewable energy storage
However, storing energy from renewable sources in the absence of sunlight or wind has been an obstacle to increased absorption. Lithium-ion batteries will dominate storage technology over the next ten years, and continued advancements will enable batteries to store up to 8 hours of energy-long enough for solar power to meet peak demand at night.