Source: The Economist Science & Tech Correspondents
It’s so childish. If the globe is too hot, why not shade it? Volcanic dust and ash have been shown to chill the upper atmosphere: The 1991 Pinatubo eruption cooled the Earth by 0.5°C for four years. Solar geoengineering, or solar radiation control, does the same thing.
This is hotly debated. Could it work? Undoing efforts to reduce GHG emissions? In 2022, a Harvard team intends to execute SCOPEX, a long-delayed experiment. To measure how 2kg of material (possibly calcium carbonate) dissipates, interacts, and scatters solar radiation via a balloon sent into the stratosphere. Proponents claim that understanding the process is critical to buying time to reduce emissions. There is an impartial advisory body considering the moral and political implications.
Keeping buildings warm in winter accounts for about a quarter of global energy consumption. Most heating relies on burning coal, gas or oil. If the world is to meet its climate-change targets, that will have to change. The most promising alternative is to use heat pumps-essentially, refrigerators that run in reverse.
Instead of pumping heat out of a space to cool it down, a heat pump forces heat in from the outside, warming it up. Because they merely move existing heat around, they can be highly efficient: for every kilowatt of electricity consumed, heat pumps can deliver 3kw of heat, making them cheaper to run than electric radiators. And running a heat pump backwards cools a home rather than heating it.
E-mobility is one thing. But not planes. Batteries can only power short flights. But could water-only hydrogen fuel cells’ power accomplish the trick? A two-seater manufactured at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands will be tested with hydrogen fuel cells in 2022. By year’s end, ZeroAvia, based in California, hopes to have its hydrogen-powered aircraft ready for certification. In September 2022, Universal Hydrogen of California aims to fly their 40-seat airliner.
Direct air capture
Carbon dioxide promotes global warming. So why not use machines? Several startups are attempting direct air capture (DAC). Beginning in 2022, a Canadian company will develop the world’s largest DAC facility in Texas, capable of absorbing 1m tonnes of CO2. In 2021, ClimeWorks, a Swiss company, will establish a DAC facility in Iceland, burying 4,000 tonnes of CO per year. American Global Thermostat has two pilot plants. DAC may be crucial in combating climate change. It’s a competition to reduce prices and scale technology.
A new agriculture is emerging. Plants are grown on trays stacked in a controlled atmosphere. The use of efficient LED lighting has reduced expenses, yet energy expenditures persist. Vertical farms save transportation costs and pollution. No insecticides are needed because the water usage is reduced.
Britain’s Jones Food Company plans to create the world’s largest vertical farm in 2022. Americans AeroFarms will open its largest vertical farm in Daneville, VA. Other businesses will grow.
Nordic Harvest will expand its factory near Copenhagen and build one in Stockholm. Plenty will open an indoor farm in Los Angeles. Aside from high-value leafy greens and herbs, vertical farms are growing tomatoes, peppers, and berries. Now the challenge is to make the economics work.
Ships emit 3% of GHG. This nasty diesel sludge adds to acid rain. This was not an issue when sails were used, which is why high-tech sails are being used to reduce costs and emissions.
Inflatable sails will be fitted to a freighter in 2022, reducing fuel usage by 20%. An MOL ship with a telescopic stiff sail will debut in August 2022. Il Naos Design aims to equip eight ships with its folding hard “wing sails.” Suction-wing fans and enormous rotating cylinders called Flettner Rotors are more options. According to the International Windship Association, there will be 40 large cargo ships with sails by the end of 2022. If the EU implements its carbon pricing scheme for shipping in 2022, this will give these novel technologies a boost.
Most people are inactive. But they lack motivation. Virtual reality (VR) headsets allow users to punch, slice, or crouch and shimmy their way through games while burning calories. During the epidemic, gyms were closed and a powerful, low-cost VR headset, the Oculus Quest 2, was released. 2020 will bring a new model with fitness features. Also, Supernatural, a popular VR fitness program in North America, may come to Europe. Could virtual reality’s killer app be fitness?
HIV and malaria vaccines
Success of mRNA-based coronavirus vaccines signals a golden era of vaccine development. Moderna is working on an HIV vaccine using the same mRNA technology as its coronavirus vaccine.
Clinical trials began in 2021, with preliminary results expected in 2022. BioNTech is developing an mRNA vaccine for malaria, with clinical trials set to begin in 2022. Non-mRNA HIV and malaria vaccines produced at Oxford University are also promising.
3D bone implants
Researchers have been working on 3D printing of biological materials for years. The ultimate goal is to take a patient’s cells and make fully functional organs for transplantation, eliminating long waiting lists, match testing, and rejection.
Fleshy organs are still far from that goal. But bones are easier. Particle3D and ADAM seek to have human-implantable 3D-printed bones by 2022. Both companies use calcium-based minerals to print custom-sized bones from patients’ CT images. In pigs and mice, Particle3D’s implants generated bone marrow and blood arteries within eight weeks. They are biodegradable and eventually replaced by the patient’s own bone tissue, according to ADAM. If all goes well, 3D-printed blood arteries and heart valves could follow.
Flying electric taxis
Flying taxis, or electric vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft, are becoming a reality.
Several companies will ramp up test flights in 2022, hoping to have their aircraft authorized for commercial use within a year or two. Joby Aviation, based in California, wants to produce over a dozen of its five-seater vehicles. Germany’s Volocopter plans an air taxi service at the 2024 Paris Olympics. Hang, Lilium, and Vertical Aerospace are contenders. Watch the skies.
Expectations are high for 2022 after a stellar year for space tourism in 2021, when a slew of billionaire-backed initiatives launched civilians into orbit. In July, Virgin Galactic beat Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin to the brink of space, with both billionaires taking suborbital flights in their own aircraft. In September, Elon Musk’s SpaceX firm took four people on a multi-day orbital journey.
All three firms hope to fly more toulow 111 2022, paying travelers will outnumber government employees for the first time. But Virgin Galactic is redesigning their vehicle to make it stronger and safer, and commercial service is slated to begin in the fourth quarter of 2022. But Blue Origin hasn’t indicated when or how many. SpaceX, on the other hand, has agreed to send passengers to the ISS. Next? Moon.
It’s taking longer than intended. But new laws enacted in 2021 will allow drone deliveries to soar in 2022. In County Galway, Manna, an Irish start-up, has started providing books, meals, and medicine. Wing, a Google subsidiary, has been testing its mall-to-home delivery service in America, Australia, and Finland. Dronamics, a Bulgarian startup, will begin flying cargo between 39 European airports.
Scientists have been wondering for half a century if changing the form of a supersonic aircraft could minimize the sonic boom. Recent computer advances have enabled the simulations required to put noise-reduction theories into practice.
NASA’s X-59 QuesT (Quiet Supersonic Technology) will fly for the first time in 2022. Also, the test will be conducted over land, at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Concorde, the world’s first and only commercial supersonic airplane, couldn’t fly over land. The X-59’s sonic boom will be one-eighth the volume of Concorde’s. At 75 decibels, it will sound like a distant rainstorm – a sonic “thump”. This might open up a new age of commercial flight if it works.
Many architects utilize 3D printing to make scale models. A scaled-up version of the technology can be built. Materials are squirted as a foam that hardens. A house is printed layer by layer, either on site or in factory sections that are transported and assembled. Mighty Buildings of California will finish 15 eco-friendly 3D-printed homes at Rancho Mirage in 2022. And ICON, based in Texas, intends to establish the world’s largest 3D-printed village of 100 homes near Austin.
It’s trendy in Silicon Valley. Using a variety of technology, geeks are increasingly optimizing their sleep as well as their waking hours. These include sleep-tracking rings and headbands, soothing sound generators, heated and cooled mattresses, and smart alarm clocks that wake you at the right time. Sleep-tracking bedside tablets from Google and Amazon are due in 2021. It’s absurd. But lack of sleep is connected to heart disease and obesity. What Silicon Valley does today, the rest of the world does tomorrow.
Diets fail. Food selections should be tailored to each person’s metabolism, research shows. Then there’s personalized nutrition, which uses machine-learning algorithms to tell you what to eat and when, as well as microbiome tests, data on lifestyle factors like exercise, and coin-sized gadgets that check blood sugar levels in real time. After a successful start in America, personalized-nutrition companies plan to expand in 2022. Some may seek FDA approval as therapies for diabetes and migraines.
Remote medical consultations are become standard. That might change the outlook for Fitbit and Apple Watch. Currently, they are utilized as fitness trackers, tracking steps, running and swimming speeds, and heart rates during workouts. However, Gartner researchers say the border between consumer and medical usage of such devices is blurring.
Smart watches can already detect atrial fibrillation and evaluate blood oxygenation. The next Apple Watch, due in 2022, may contain sensors that measure glucose, alcohol, blood pressure, and body temperature. The sensor supplier, Rockley Photonics, describes its device a “clinic on the wrist.” While regulatory approval for such activities may take time, doctors will be paying closer attention to data from wearables.
the metaverse was a persistent virtual environment accessible via special eyewear where individuals could meet, flirt, play games, buy and sell stuff, and much more. For example, you can swim inside your favorite song at an online concert in 2022. A new medium is developing from games like Minecraft, Roblox, and Fortnite. Because of this, Facebook has rebranded itself Meta.
Unlocking quantum physics’ paradoxical features to develop a new sort of computer has grown from a 1990s blackboard notion to a multi-billion dollar race between governments, tech giants and entrepreneurs. A quantum computer could surpass any non-quantum system in some calculations used in cryptography, chemistry, and finance.
But when will they arrive? Quantum computer power is measured in qubits. A Chinese team created a 66-qubit computer. American business IBM aims for 433 qubits in 2022 and 1,000 in 2023. Existing machines, however, have a fatal flaw: their sensitive quantum states only survive a fraction of a second. The fix will take years. Quantum computing may become a commercial reality sooner than predicted if conventional devices can be used in the interim.
A virtual influencer will never be late for a picture, get drunk at a party, or age. Because virtual influencers promote products on Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok.
The most famous is “Lil Miquela”, a fake 19-year-old Brazilian-American with 3m Instagram followers. Influencer marketing is predicted to reach $15 billion by 2022. Aya Stellar, a marketing agency’s cosmic traveller, will arrive on Earth in February. She has a song on YouTube.
In April 2021 the irrepressible entrepreneur Elon Musk excitedly tweeted that a monkey was “literally playing a video game telepathically using a brain chip.” His company, Neuralink, had implanted two tiny sets of electrodes into the monkey’s brain. Signals from these electrodes, transmitted wirelessly and then decoded by a nearby computer, enabled the monkey to move the on-screen paddle in a game of Pong using thought alone.
It intends to test the technology on humans in 2022, allowing paraplegic people to use a computer. American regulators have already given Synchron permission to begin human trials of a comparable gadget. In the neck blood arteries, its “minimally invasive” neural prosthesis is implanted. Synchron is investigating various applications, including as identifying and treating nervous system disorders such as epilepsy, depression, and hypertension.
Artificial meat and fish
W. Churchill allegedly speculated about “raising a complete chicken just to eat the breast or wing.” Around 70 companies now “cultivate” beef in bioreactors. Animal cells are fed protein, sugar, fat, vitamin, and mineral-rich soups without damaging them. Eat Just, a San Francisco-based artificial meat startup, will be the first to offer its products in Singapore in 2020.
In 2022, a few more enterprises are scheduled to join. SuperMeat, an Israeli business, aims to get license for commercial sales of cultured chicken burgers at $10 per pop, down from $2,500 in 2018.
California-based Finless Foods expects to offer developed bluefin tuna for $440 per kilogram, down from $660,000 in 2017. Planned meats include bacon and turkey. Eco-friendly meat eaters will soon be able to enjoy their steak.