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5 science and technology breakthroughs from 2016

Last updated on Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Written by Alex Cadman

Technology is constantly evolving, and emerging technologies are developing every day that could have the power to solve key problems and change the way we live. From potential cancer-curing technology to devices powered solely by radio signals, 2016 so far has been a year of technology milestones.

Our blog brings you five of the top technology breakthroughs of 2016 to date, as reported by Technology Review.

5. Immune Engineering

Scientists at Cellectis began developing a cancer treatment in 2011 that involves editing an individual’s genes using a method called TALENs, which makes changes to DNA in living cells. The goal of this gene-editing process is to gain control over ‘T’ cells, the “killer cells of the immune system”, and direct them to attack the blood cells that mutate in leukaemia.

The technique has been tested with hundreds of patients to date, yielding largely positive results. With further development, the ‘immune engineering’ technology could be available in 1 to 2 years, according to Technology Review. More information can be found here.

4. Gene Editing in Plants

A new technology known as CRISPR is a gene modification technique for plants that can be used to help crops “yield more food and resist droughts and diseases more effectively”. A lab in the UK is applying this technology to potatoes, tomatoes and other crops to test its effectiveness and to fight fungal diseases.

So far, plants treated with the CRISPR technology have not resulted in foreign cells, which should help ease the concern that governments and consumers may have over genetically modified organisms. The development of this technology is tedious and costly, which means it may not be available for another 5-10 years.

3. Reusable Rockets

Until now, rockets that fly into space have been destroyed by burning up in the Earth’s atmosphere, making each journey to space extremely costly to the tune of tens of millions of US dollars. However, two technology companies – Blue Origin and SpaceX – have proved that reusable rockets are possible. Both companies tested rockets in 2015 that were able to land vertically on the ground after their respective journeys using foldout legs.

Despite experiencing some technical difficulties, these companies have proved that space flight has not yet reached its plateau in terms of how far the technology can advance. It will be interesting to see the implementation of the new technology in years to come.

2. Robots That Teach Each Other

Science and technology has come a long way in the last 20 years regarding the development and usage of robots. However, many robots are not yet able to perform simple tasks because they do not have the programmed dexterity to handle common objects. Teaching a robot to do things like fold the laundry or hold a bowl is possible with extensive programming, but doing so for each robot in the world would be a painstaking process.

However, it is possible to enable robots to teach each other these tasks by programming one robot to complete the task, and then instruct that robot to pass the data along to other robots via cloud software. This would help advance the capabilities of robots in a much quicker fashion. Technology Review claims this will be available in approximately 3 to 5 years.

1. Power from the Air

Devices and gadgets are part of daily life in the 21st century and typically, the devices we use to connect to the Internet are powered by a battery or power cord. However, developing technology could see the release of devices that are powered solely by TV, radio, mobile phone or Wi-Fi signals. Transferring power wireless is not a new trick, but to power a device by radio signal alone without a conventional power source proves more difficult than it seems.

The technology that allows our devices to operate effectively without batteries or power cords could become available in the next 2 to 3 years, increasing the usability and mobility of such devices while decreasing the costs of production.

What are your thoughts on our list of top technology breakthroughs? What sort of technology would you like to see developed in the future? Leave us a comment below or share your thoughts on our LinkedIn page.

Churchill Knight & Associates Ltd have been helping contractors and freelancers since 1998, providing specialist accountancy services to contractors in various sectors, including IT and engineering. If you enjoy reading about technology, add our blog to your bookmarks so you can stay up to date with our latest blogs on technology and consumer gadgets.

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