As we move forward into the future, our need for new technologies that make life better, easier, and more efficient increases too. Innovative ways to produce and conserve energy can help us face up to and counter global warming and other environmental problems. Integrating biology and electronics for faster and advanced healthcare has never been more welcome. New materials that are stronger, lighter, viable, or necessary for space travel and various applications here on Earth are being invented by many scientists all over the world. Many of these might seem unreal, as if they are from science fiction.
We have come across 10 such mind-blowing technologies that most people don’t know exist in real life and here they are.
1. Electronic Skin or E-Skin
An organic circuit 10 times thinner than a human skin cell, lighter than a feather, and that can be worn on the skin like an electronic tattoo.
Electronic skin is a temperature and pressure sensitive, thin, electronic material that mimics human skin. Just like human skin, it can stretch and also heal itself. It uses stretchable solar cells developed by a Stanford team in February 2011 for power with an accordion-like microstructure that lets them stretch up to 30% without any damage. The e-skin also contains biological and chemical sensors along with pressure sensors. It sticks to the skin because of Van der Waals forces which are based on the attraction between molecules, rather than adhesives.
The e-skin was made by embedding sensors on a thin film and then placing the film on a polyester backing, just like the one used in temporary tattoos. In July 2013, another team at the University of California, Berkeley was able to create an e-skin that lights up when touched and gets brighter as the pressure increases. Among the potential applications of the e-skin are being able to monitor the vitals of a patient. Others are a robot that will be able to detect disease or intoxication in a human and a video that can be played on the back of your hand. (source)
2. Li-Fi or Light Fidelity
A high-speed wireless communication system that utilizes household LED light bulbs enabling data transfers 100 times faster than WiFi and reaching speeds of up to 224 gigabits per second.
The term “Li-Fi” was coined by Harald Haas, a Chair Professor of Mobile Communications at the University of Edinburgh, Germany, and the co-founder pureLiFI, to describe the idea of “wireless data from every light.” Li-Fi works by switching the LED lights on and off at a very high rate, too quick for a human eye to notice, in order to transmit data.
The advantage of using visible light over a normal WiFi’s radio frequency is that the spectrum is 10,000 times larger and is expected to be ten times less expensive. Researchers were able to transmit data at a rate of 224 Gbits/second, quite a lot higher than the fastest broadband in 2013. Since light waves cannot penetrate the walls, Li-Fi is believed to be far more secure from hacking than WiFi. Li-Fi also does not require direct line of sight, and the light reflected off the walls can achieve speeds of 70 Mbits/s. (source)
3. Transparent Aluminum Armor
A ceramic compound of aluminum, oxygen, and nitrogen known as aluminum oxynitride (AlON) that is optically transparent and four times harder than silica glass. A thickness of only 1.6 inches of AlON armor can stop .50 caliber BMG armor-piercing rounds which can penetrate 3.7 inches of glass laminate.
ALON (or AlON) is the hardest transparent ceramic available commercially. Because of its cubic spinel structure and by using conventional ceramic powder processing techniques, the material can be made into transparent windows, plates, domes, rods, tubes and many other forms.
AlON is optically transparent, more than 80% so in the near-ultraviolet, visible, and midwave-infrared frequencies of the electromagnetic spectrum. It is also four times harder than fused silica glass and 85% as hard as a sapphire. It can also withstand temperatures up to 2,100 degrees Centigrade. Being lightweight, hard, and transparent makes AlON an excellent candidate for bulletproof armor and has been shown to stop multiple armor-piercing projectiles of up to .50 caliber. It has also been nicknamed “transparent aluminum” after a similar fictional material in the Star Trek universe. (1, 2)
4. Color-Changing Contact Lenses for Monitoring Glucose Levels
The nanoparticles embedded in the hydrogel lenses react with the glucose molecules present in tears causing the lens to change color and thus alert the wearer of the rise or drop in their blood sugar levels.
One of the most important things a diabetic must do is to constantly monitor their blood sugar levels to avoid diabetes-related complications. But, every time they test their sugar levels they have to prick their finger to draw a drop of blood.
The color-changing contact lenses designed by professor Jin Zhang from the University of Western Ontario can omit the need for drawing blood every day. When there is an increase or decrease in blood sugar levels, the tears and the urine are affected too. The lenses react to the glucose present in the tears and change color accordingly. The nanocomposites used in the lenses are believed to be useful in a wide variety of applications such as food preservation and biodegradable food packaging. (source)
5. Wireless Energy Transmission
Japanese researchers have succeeded in transmitting energy using microwaves and delivered 1.8 kilowatts of power through the air, with pinpoint accuracy, to a receiver 55 meters away.
One of the foremost research projects at the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has been solar power satellites (SPS), satellites which can harness the solar energy for use on Earth.
The energy would then be transmitted to Earth using either lasers or microwaves. However, lasers are considered impractical as they do not work through clouds. Recently, JAXA was able to deliver 1.8 kilowatts of energy to an antenna known as rectenna 55 meters away using carefully directed microwaves. The conversion of solar energy to DC, then to microwave, to DC again, and finally AC is 80% efficient, without considering the loss of energy during transmission. The agency is planning on deploying a geosynchronous solar collector weighing 10,000 metric tons at around 36,000 kilometers from Earth. By 2031, JAXA hopes to have a one-gigawatt commercial pilot plant operational. (source)