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31st December 2021

2021 highlights in science and technology

Goodbye 2021, and hello 2022!

Despite the ongoing disruption from COVID-19, many impressive breakthroughs in science and technology occurred this year.

Below we have listed our top 20 most viewed blogs of 2021, in reverse order.

 

 


  20

11th June 2021

AI outperforms humans in microchip designs

In June, researchers from Google reported a new machine learning technique for microchip floorplanning that can outperform human experts. Read more »

 

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  19

26th November 2021

World's first autonomous, all-electric container ship

In November, the world's first electric and self-piloting container ship – Yara Birkeland – undertook its maiden voyage in the Oslo Fjord. This will cut 1,000 tonnes of CO2 and replace 40,000 trips by diesel-powered trucks a year. Read more »

 

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  18

14th May 2021

World's smallest single-chip system is <0.1 mm³

Engineers in New York demonstrated the smallest ever single-chip system that is a complete functioning electronic circuit, less than 0.1 mm³. This could one day lead to implantable chips visible only in a microscope, able to be injected into the body with a hypodermic needle to monitor medical conditions. If the current trend in miniaturisation continues, blood cell-sized devices might become possible in the 2040s. Read more »

 

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  17

1st August 2021

World's most powerful tidal turbine begins operations

This year saw deployment of the Orbital O2 – the world's most powerful tidal turbine device – which began generating 2 megawatts (MW) of clean energy off the coast of Scotland. Many such projects could follow in the years ahead. The UK has abundant tidal energy around its coastline, with potential to generate 10GW of power from this resource by 2050, if tidal power capacity follows a similar growth trend to solar and wind. Read more »

 

 

 

 


  16

25th September 2021

Electrified road to wirelessly charge EVs in Michigan

Michigan announced its plan to become the first state in America to deploy inductive vehicle charging technology in roads, in an effort to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs). Read more »

 

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  15

21st May 2021

Nanotech batteries will charge 70 times faster than lithium-ion

Earlier this year, Australia's Graphene Manufacturing Group and the University of Queensland developed new battery cells, said to charge up to 70 times faster than lithium-ion cells and with triple the battery life. Read more »

 

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  14

1st June 2021

Chinese fusion reactor sets world record

This year, the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) in China achieved a new world record for superheated plasma, with its reactor becoming 10 times hotter than the core of the Sun. Read more »

 

Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

 

 

 


  13

16th April 2021

New processor enables 10 times faster training of AI

In April, NVIDIA unveiled "Grace" – its first data centre CPU, which delivers a 10 times performance leap for systems training AI models, using energy-efficient ARM cores. The company also revealed plans for a 20 exaflop supercomputer. Read more »

 

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  12

29th October 2021

World's first practical hoverbike

This year, Japanese company ALI Technologies unveiled a new hoverbike – the XTurismo Limited Edition. The company is planning to manufacture 200 of these vehicles by mid-2022. Read more »

 

 

 

 


  11

2nd April 2021

First high-bandwidth wireless brain-computer interface for humans

Earlier this year, researchers at Brown University created a brain-computer interface (BCI) with 200 electrodes providing 48 megabits per second (Mbit/s) of neural signals. Read more »

 

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  10

17th March 2021

First model of physical warp drives

In March, researchers in New York announced the first model of physical warp drives, which demonstrates how the sci-fi technology may be scientifically possible at sub-light speeds. The team, who worked closely with esteemed theoretical physicist, Miguel Alcubierre, described their findings in the peer-reviewed journal Classical and Quantum Gravity. Read more »

 

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  9

29th November 2021

Ultracompact camera is the size of a salt grain

In November, researchers in the U.S. announced a new imaging device just 500 μm (0.5 mm) in diameter. The system can produce crisp, full-colour images on a par with conventional compound camera lenses 500,000 times larger in volume. Read more »

 

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Credit: Princeton University and the University of Washington

 

 

 


  8

9th July 2021

Study estimates longevity extremes by 2100

A study by the University of Washington used Bayesian population projections to forecast the world's longest-lived person by 2100. It found that a person reaching the age of 142 is statistically possible. It also found that tens of thousands of people are likely to reach the ages of 110–114. Read more »

 

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  7

23rd May 2021

Atoms viewed at highest ever resolution

In May, researchers at Cornell University developed a new microscopy technique, able to shrink spatial resolutions to less than 20 picometres. If the current trend in spatial resolution continues, microscopes might observe individual protons in the late 22nd century. Read more »

 

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  6

1st June 2021

New drone is first to reach Level 4 autonomy

This year, Exyn Technologies, a pioneer in aerial robot systems, announced the highest documented level of aerial autonomy. Read more »

 

 

 

 


  5

29th May 2021

Humans could live to 150, according to study

Jeanne Calment became famous as the world's oldest recorded human, reaching the age of 122 in 1997. However, even more extreme ages are possible, according to a study in May, which looked at the associations between aging and the body's loss of ability to recover from stresses. Read more »

 

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  4

20th August 2021

Fusion breakthrough: 70% yield from input energy

In August, the National Ignition Facility in California reported a major breakthrough in the development of nuclear fusion power. By combining 192 beams into a 1.9 megajoule (MJ) pulse, fired at a small gold cylinder containing a hydrogen capsule, they produced a reaction with 1.35 MJ of energy, more than 70% of the original input. Read more »

 

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Credit: NIF/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

 

 

 


  3

15th January 2021

Humans would be unable to control an artificial superintelligence

Using theoretical calculations, scientists from the Max Planck Institute showed that humans would be unable to control a superintelligent AI. Their findings appeared in the peer-reviewed Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research. Read more »

 

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  2

3rd March 2021

New deepfake tool reanimates the dead

This year, Israeli genealogy company MyHeritage released "Deep Nostalgia", a groundbreaking new feature to animate faces in still photos. Read more »

 

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  1

13th September 2021

mRNA cancer therapy enters human trials after success in mice

BioNTech, the company that partnered with Pfizer to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, published data in September from a new mRNA-based therapy it is developing for cancer. Scientists injected mRNA into colon and melanoma tumours in mice. This treatment halted tumour growth and caused a complete regression of cancer in 85% of the animals. A human clinical trial is now underway, involving 231 participants. Read more »

 

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