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Five Inventions That Could Change the World

Humans have dreamt up and built some truly extraordinary inventions for more than two million years. From our early human ancestors smashing one stone against another to create the first sharp-edged tool to the discovery of vaccines, and the creation of the Internet. However, some have proved more useful than others (Ever heard of the shoe umbrella? It looks exactly as it sounds), but innovation is always needed for the advancement of mankind.

These inventions are all at different stages of the innovation process. Some are in the early testing stages, and others are being prepped to be launched. While there’s no sure bet on what will be a winner, they all hold the potential to change the whole world as we know it.

Our oceans have been inordinately impacted by human activity, especially the damage done to coral reefs. They are home to a quarter of our sea creatures, generate clean air, and provide protection to coastal areas. The solution that many communities are using to restore these damaged areas is to develop artificial farms and nurseries where coral species can grow and eventually be relocated back to a natural structure. Instead of using heavy-duty material or machinery, the Modular Artificial Reef Structure, or MARS, is a 3D-printed, ceramic-lined lattice that can be deployed in parts by small boats, and constructed by divers like LEGOs.

3D printing allows an object to be built layer by layer, so the brainchild of MARS, Reef Design Lab, is able to mimic almost every contour and shape of the natural coral that is found in whichever coastline they are designing the structure for. The technique is also fairly affordable, making it accessible to more communities around the world.

BCIs, or brain-computer interfaces, essentially connect activity from the human brain to external technology and processes it into information. They have the potential to escalate human intelligence to unfathomable levels, as well as for some phenomenal breakthroughs in the medical field.

This technology has been effective in treating spinal cord injuries, managing depression and repairing damaged sight. Salt Lake City-based company, Blackrock Neurotech, famously even developed a neural implant that allowed a paralyzed man to control a robotic arm with his mind, and was the first to enable patients suffering from ALS to communicate through an auditory speller. The company is now focused on restoring functions that had been hindered by disabilities or accidents and plan to launch a commercial device this year.

The Climate Crisis is well and truly here and in 2021, carbon emissions rose by 6% to reach 36.3 billion tonnes, its highest level ever. Decarbonization or finding ways to capture carbon emissions is more important than ever.

A team of international researchers at Iceland’s Carbfix have developed a method to permanently capture carbon dioxide from the air to be transformed into rocks. Carbon already naturally exists in rocks, so Carbfix invented a way to imitate and accelerate these natural processes. So far, the timescale of the developed process is two years, but it is estimated that carbon capture and storage technologies could trap more than 90% of emissions from power plants and industrial facilities and help mitigate climate change.

A single plastic bottle takes at least 450 years to decompose. During its lifespan, the material causes all sorts of environmental chaos, like releasing toxic substances into land and air, as well as destroying natural habitats. People have learned to say no to plastic straws and carry their own takeout bags, but London-based Notpla has plans to make packaging disappear altogether by using seaweed and plants instead.

The material is biodegradable, compostable and in some cases, even edible. It’s also made from one of the planet’s most bountiful and sustainable resources, seaweed, which requires no freshwater or fertilizer to grow.

Notpla’s packaging has currently replaced plastic bottles, cups, and condiment packets, created in partnership with ketchup brand Heinz. The company is even going after cardboard, which people may be surprised to know is usually coated in plastic or bioplastic. They’re expanding as well and hoping to step up commercialization within the EU, as well as further markets like the US and Southeast Asia.

Flying cars is the stuff of every sci-fi lover’s dream but that may not be too far off in the future now. The Munich-based startup, Lilium, is developing an affordable “on-demand air taxi service” (think, calling a ride-share into the city and getting to literally fly over traffic).

The company recently launched the Lilium Jet, which features all-electric jet engines that allow for a vertical takeoff and landing, all packed into a sleek seven-seater aircraft. The jet is capable of traveling at a speed of 300 km/h and a range of 300km.

Not only does the jet offer a more environmentally-friendly solution for air transportation, but it could also change our perception of distance and time and subsequently, open up the possibilities of where we can live and work. A two-and-a-half-hour commute would become a 30-minute one instead. The company plans to start commercial operations by 2025 and has begun testing in various cities.

What other inventions or innovations did we miss? Write to anurag.banerjee@quilt.ai and tell us about them. We’d love to hear more!

Originally published at https://www.quilt.ai on May 23, 2022.



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