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10 Recent Scientific Breakthroughs and Discoveries that Should get More Attention

scientific breakthroughs

Experts around the world are constantly carrying out experiments to either improve existing technologies or develop new ones. With our busy lives, we are never in touch with the recent scientific breakthroughs that these experts bring to the world to make our lives easier. In this article, we honor a few of the recent scientific breakthroughs and discoveries that we have not paid much attention to.

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1. A team of Swedish researchers has devised a new method that would cut down the time for an MRI scan to just a minute. Earlier, the time for a scan ranged from an hour to 90 minutes. Although the result is a blurrier image, it corresponds 97% with the traditional MRI scans.

MRI scanner
A traditional MRI scanner. Image Credit: Wikipedia

The advent of MRIs has really made things easier for medical professionals. They are used as a form of imaging technology to help doctors see the inside of a person’s body without putting him on the operating table. But people have been complaining about the MRI scans for a long time now. For one thing, the tube-shaped space where the person lies down really suffocates and scares many people. And for everyone, MRI scans take a very long time.

But there might be a light at the end of the tunnel now. Stefen Skare and Tim Sprenger, researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Solna, have come up with an immensely improved MRI technology. They have written 5,000 lines of code to cut down the time of an MRI from 90 minutes to almost just one minute. Known as “Echo-Planar Imaging” (EPI), this new technology allows images of the body to be taken in just a fraction of a minute. Skare and Sprenger combined EPI with MRI scan images and replaced the traditional image procedures. Although the result is a blurrier image, it corresponds with 97% of the traditional MRI scans. They are currently improving the technology to make it more efficient. (source)

2. In March 2019, scientists were able to successfully weld glass and metal together using ultrafast laser pulses. This has been achieved for the first time and is actually a pretty big breakthrough in manufacturing which could lead to stronger, yet lighter, materials.

Traditional welding process
Traditional welding process. Image Credit: Wikipedia

Recently, the manufacturing industry saw an amazing breakthrough. Scientists at Heriot-Watt University were able to successfully weld various metals and glass together. Optical materials such as borosilicate glass, quartz, and sapphire were successfully welded to metals such as titanium, aluminum, and stainless steel. The procedure they used is known as the “Heriot-Watt laser system” that utilizes really short infrared pulses to fuse the materials together.

Heriot-Watt laser system
The Heriot-Watt laser system that utilizes really short infrared pulses to fuse the materials together. A spiral weld is formed at the surface during the welding process (right). Image Credit: BBC

Until now, there have been no such technologies that could weld metals and glass together. This new process has the ability to take the manufacturing sector to a whole new level. Currently, equipment that has both metal and glass are held together by adhesives. The ability to weld them would lead to design flexibilities in aerospace, optical technology, defense, and healthcare. (source)

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3. Researchers at the University of Toronto have developed a handheld device that prints sheets of a skin substitute directly onto burn wounds, potentially making skin grafting faster, cheaper and easier.

A team of Canadian scientists has come up with a technology that has the potential to make the process of skin grafting as easy as rolling out a piece of Scotch tape. The scientists came up with a 3D, handheld device that works as a skin printer and shoots out layers of skin tissues on burns and injuries.

Currently, burn victims go through intense pain to get their skin grafts where doctors take good skin from unaffected areas and put them on the affected portions. This works for small burns, but the procedure is unsuccessful when it comes to extensive burns. Also, removing healthy skin from an unaffected area leads to pain and sometimes infection.

Researchers
Researchers at the University of Toronto. Image Credit: Smithsonian

With this new device, there would not be any requirement of such skin grafts. The machine dispenses a “bio-ink” which is composed of collagen and fibrin to print out artificial skin. These strips can be deposited on the affected areas almost instantly. The device will begin human trials next year. (source)

4. A micro-fragmentation method has been developed that immensely speeds up the growth of coral organisms responsible for the development of reefs. Normally, reef creation would take up to 25-30 years, but with this process, the same results can be achieved in just three years!

Coral reefs are the most important ecosystems in the world as they support almost 25% of the marine animals while only covering 1% of the seafloor. But unfortunately, these coral reefs are disappearing at an alarming rate across the world. Humans are to blame with our destructive actions such as pollution, overfishing, and ocean acidification. Coral scientists around the world have been working on reviving the reefs, and a few years back, they finally stumbled upon the right solution.

Scientists at the Elizabeth Moore International Center for Coral Reef Research & Restoration have come up with a micro-fragmentation procedure that immensely speeds up the growth of the organisms that are responsible for the building of the coral reefs. Moreover, this procedure helps the corals to grow even in the present warm and acidic environmental conditions.

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This new technique works by breaking down the corals into one to five polyps with the help of a specialized saw. This, in turn, stimulates the coral tissue to grow at 25 to 50 times the normal rate of growth. These fragments are then placed in shallow water tanks at a temperature of 22–26° C, with regular removal of algae and debris. Since these clone fragments recognize each other, they fuse together to form a larger colony instead of fighting each other for resources.  Within four to 12 months, these fully grown corals are ready to be placed in the ocean or can be re-fragmented again.

Micro-fragmentation
This is how corals are grown in the micro-fragmentation procedure. Image Credit: Youtube

With this technique, scientists are able to grow fully functional corals in just two years to a size that naturally takes 100 years to grow. This is quite exceptional as this would enable faster restoration of the reefs. Moreover, these colonies would take 75 years to reach sexual maturity in a natural way,  but now, they are ready to reproduce in just a matter of two years.  More than 20,000 corals have been placed at the depleted areas along the coast of Florida. (source)

5. Scientists have devised a way to turn CO2 in the air into solid coal. This cost-effective method could revolutionize the way we remove carbon from the atmosphere and eliminate drastic climate changes.

Carbon Dioxide to coal
The procedure of converting Carbon Dioxide to flakes of coal (left) and the liquid catalyst used for the process (right): Image Credit: RMIT University via Nature Communications

The increasing levels of COin the atmosphere has been causing drastic climate changes. If only there was a way to extract the CO2 from the atmosphere! Well now, there just might be.

A team of scientists has created a method that could turn the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to solid coal. This method would make capturing carbon and storing it safer and more efficient. The procedure was developed by researchers at the RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia. This breakthrough method utilizes a liquid-metal electrocatalyst that contains nanoparticles of cerium, a rare-earth metal, to convert CO2 into a coal-like solid at room temperature. This solidified COwill also be useful for industrial purposes. (source)

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