10EmergingTechnologiesThatWillChangeTheWorld

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10 Emerging Technologies That Will Change the World

 Source: MIT Technology Review
 Dated: February 2003
 Noticed by: Kharin

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These are not the latest crop of gadgets and gizmos: they are completely new technologies that could soon transform computing, medicine, manufacturing, transportation, and our energy infrastructure. Nurturing the people and the culture needed to make the birth of such technological ideas possible is a messy endeavor, as MIT Media Lab cofounder Nicholas Negroponte explains in Creating a Culture of Ideas.

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1. Wireless Sensor Networks

These networks will observe just about everything, including traffic, weather, seismic activity, the movements of troops on battlefields, and the stresses on buildings and bridges—all on a far finer scale than has been possible before.

Because such networks will be too distributed to have the sensors hard-wired into the electrical or communications grids, the lablet's first challenge was to make its prototype motes communicate wirelessly with minimal battery power. "The devices have to organize themselves in a network by listening to one another and figuring out who can they hear...but it costs power to even listen," says Culler. That meant finding a way to leave the motes' radios off most of the time and still allow data to hop through the network, mote by mote, in much the same way that data on the Internet are broken into packets and routed from node to node.

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2. Injectable Tissue Engineering

The procedure—in which a knee or a hip is replaced with an artificial implant—is highly invasive, and many patients delay the surgery for as long as they can. <snip> "We're not just trying to improve the current therapy," says Elisseeff. "We're really trying to change it completely."

While most research on injectable systems has focused on cartilage and bone, observers say this technology could be extended to tissues such as those of the liver and heart. The method could be used to replace diseased portions of an organ or to enhance its functioning, says Harvard University pediatric surgeon Anthony Atala. In the case of heart failure, instead of opening the chest and surgically implanting an engineered valve or muscle tissue, he says, simply injecting the right combination of cells and signals might do the trick.

For Elisseeff and the rest of the field, the next frontier lies in a powerful new tool: stem cells. Derived from sources like bone marrow and embryos, stem cells have the ability to differentiate into numerous types of cells.

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3. Nano Solar Cells

The sun may be the only energy source big enough to wean us off fossil fuels. But harnessing its energy depends on silicon wafers that must be produced by the same exacting process used to make computer chips. The expense of the silicon wafers raises solar-power costs to as much as 10 times the price of fossil fuel generation—keeping it an energy source best suited for satellites and other niche applications.

Paul Alivisatos, a chemist at the University of California, Berkeley, has a better idea: he aims to use nanotechnology to produce a photovoltaic material that can be spread like plastic wrap or paint. Not only could the nano solar cell be integrated with other building materials, it also offers the promise of cheap production costs that could finally make solar power a widely used electricity alternative.

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The nanorod solar cells could be rolled out, ink-jet printed, or even painted onto surfaces, so "a billboard on a bus could be a solar collector," says Nanosys's director of business development, Stephen Empedocles. He predicts that cheaper materials could create a $10 billion annual market for solar cells, dwarfing the growing market for conventional silicon cells.

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4. Mechatronics

To improve everything from fuel economy to performance, automotive researchers are turning to "mechatronics," the integration of familiar mechanical systems with new electronic components and intelligent-software control. Take brakes. In the next five to 10 years, electromechanical actuators will replace hydraulic cylinders; wires will replace brake fluid lines; and software will mediate between the driver's foot and the action that slows the car. And because lives will depend on such mechatronic systems, Rolf Isermann, an engineer at Darmstadt University of Technology in Darmstadt, Germany, is using software that can identify and correct for flaws in real time to make sure the technology functions impeccably.

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Partnerships with manufacturing companies—including DaimlerChrysler and Continental Teves—merge the basic research from Isermann's group with industry's development of such technologies in actual cars. Isermann says that "80 to 90 percent of the innovations in the development of engines and cars these days are due to electronics and mechatronics.

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5. Grid Computing

"We're moving into a future in which the location of [computational] resources doesn't really matter," says Argonne National Laboratory's Ian Foster. Foster and Carl Kesselman of the University of Southern California's Information Sciences Institute pioneered this concept, which they call grid computing in analogy to the electric grid, and built a community to support it. Foster and Kesselman, along with Argonne's Steven Tuecke, have led development of the Globus Toolkit, an open-source implementation of grid protocols that has become the de facto standard. Such protocols promise to give home and office machines the ability to reach into cyberspace, find resources wherever they may be, and assemble them on the fly into whatever applications are needed.

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What's more, Smarr and others say, Foster and Kesselman have been instrumental in building a community around grid computing and in advocating its integration with two related approaches: peer-to-peer computing, which brings to bear the power of idle desktop computers on big problems in the manner made famous by SETI@home, and Web services, in which access to far-flung computational resources is provided through enhancements to the Web's hypertext protocol. By helping to merge these three powerful movements, Foster and Kesselman are bringing the grid revolution much closer to reality. And that could mean seamless and ubiquitous access to unfathomable computer power.

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6. Molecular Imaging

Molecular imaging—shorthand for a number of techniques that let researchers watch genes, proteins, and other molecules at work in the body—has exploded, thanks to advances in cell biology, biochemical agents, and computer analysis. Research groups around the world are joining the effort to use magnetic, nuclear, and optical imaging techniques to study the molecular interactions that underlie biological processes. Unlike x-ray, ultrasound, and other conventional techniques that give doctors only such anatomical clues as the size of a tumor, molecular imaging could help track the underlying causes of disease. The appearance of an unusual protein in a cluster of cells, say, might signal the onset of cancer. Mahmood is helping to lead the effort to put the technology into medical practice.

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In a series of groundbreaking experiments, Mahmood's team treated cancerous mice with a drug meant to block the production of an enzyme that promotes tumor growth. The researchers then injected fluorescent probes designed to light up in the presence of that enzyme. Under an optical scanner, treated tumors showed up as less fluorescent than untreated tumors, demonstrating the potential of molecular imaging to monitor treatments in real time—rather than waiting months to see whether a tumor shrinks. "The big goal is to select the optimum therapy for a patient and then to check that, say, a drug is hitting a particular receptor," says John Hoffman, director of the Molecular Imaging Program at the National Cancer Institute. What's more, molecular imaging could be used to detect cancer signals that precede anatomical changes by months or years, eliminating the need for surgeons to cut out a piece of tissue to make a diagnosis.

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7. Nanoimprint Lithography

"Right now everybody is talking about nanotechnology, but the commercialization of nanotechnology critically depends upon our ability to manufacture," says Princeton University electrical engineer Stephen Chou.

A mechanism just slightly more sophisticated than a printing press could be the answer, Chou believes. Simply by stamping a hard mold into a soft material, he can faithfully imprint features smaller than 10 nanometers across. Last summer, in a dramatic demonstration of the potential of the technique, Chou showed that he could make nano features directly in silicon and metal. By flashing the solid with a powerful laser, he melted the surface just long enough to press in the mold and imprint the desired features.

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8. Software Assurance

Nancy Lynch and Stephen Garland are creating tools they hope will yield nearly error-free software.

Working together at MIT's Laboratory for Computer Science, Lynch and Garland have developed a computer language and programming tools for making software development more rigorous, or as Garland puts it, to "make software engineering more like an engineering discipline." Civil engineers, Lynch points out, build and test a model of a bridge before anyone constructs the bridge itself. Programmers, however, often start with a goal and, perhaps after some discussion, simply sit down to write the software code. Lynch and Garland's tools allow programmers to model, test, and reason about software before they write it.

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9. Glycomics

The reason for the excitement around glycomics is that sugars have a vital, albeit often overlooked, function in the body. In particular, sugars play a critical role in stabilizing and determining the function of proteins through a process called glycosylation, in which sugar units are attached to other molecules including newly made proteins. "If you don't have any glycosylation, you don't have life," says Paulson.

By manipulating glycosylation or sugars themselves, researchers hope to shut down disease processes, create new drugs, and improve existing ones. Biotech giant Amgen, for instance, made a more potent version of its best-selling drug (a protein called erythropoietin, which boosts red-blood-cell production) by attaching two extra sugars to the molecule.

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In the late 1980s, Paulson and his team isolated a gene for one of the enzymes responsible for glycosylation. Since that watershed event, scientists have been piecing together an ever more detailed understanding of the ways sugars can in some instances ensure healthy functioning and in others make us susceptible to disease.

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10. Quantum Cryptography

The world runs on secrets. Governments, corporations, and individuals—to say nothing of Internet-based businesses—could scarcely function without secrecy. Nicolas Gisin of the University of Geneva is in the vanguard of a technological movement that could fortify the security of electronic communications. Gisin's tool, called quantum cryptography, can transmit information in such a way that any effort to eavesdrop will be detectable.

The technology relies on quantum physics, which applies at atomic dimensions: any attempt to observe a quantum system inevitably alters it. After a decade of lab experiments, quantum cryptography is approaching feasibility.

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Conventional cryptographers concentrate on developing strong digital locks to keep information from falling into the wrong hands. But even the strongest lock is useless if someone steals the key. With quantum cryptography, "you can be certain that the key is secure," says Nabil Amer, manager of the physics of information group at IBM Research. Key transmission takes the form of photons whose direction of polarization varies randomly. The sender and the intended recipient compare polarizations, photon by photon. Any attempt to tap this signal alters the polarizations in a way that the sender and intended recipient can detect. They then transmit new keys until one gets through without disturbance.


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마지막 편집일: 2003-2-25 1:53 pm (변경사항 [d])
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