Seven from Seven: Detecting Dementia Early and Could We Be Saying Goodbye To Those Little Plastic Bags at Airport Security?

25th November 2022

Each week, we scour the worlds of innovation, tech for good and social impact to bring you seven of our top stories…

  1. Researchers from the University of Warwick have pioneered new technology which will soon allow self-driving cars to merge onto motorways and highways with better safety. The research uses roadside infrastructure and vehicle sensors to improve the vision and perception skills of self-driving vehicles to achieve easier and safer merging on high-speed junctions. The new research could be used for further autonomous vehicle development, or advanced driver assistance systems in traditional vehicles.
  2. New technology is being developed that can detect and treat early signs of lung cancer. This new tech, dubbed ‘robotic bronchoscopy’, allows doctors to reach small, remote parts of the lung they can’t get to with regular tools. The American Lung Association’s annual report revealed that lung cancer survival rates are on the rise thanks partially to this new technology. Almost 237,000 people in the US alone will be diagnosed with lung cancer this year, so by detecting the disease as early as possible, robotic bronchoscopy could save thousands of lives.
  3. Researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington are developing a “dual-mode brain-sensing device” that detects Alzheimer’s disease quickly and effectively. This device records data from near-infrared (NIR) spectroscopy, which is where NIR light is absorbed and emitted by the human cortex. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that 50 million people worldwide suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, so this new device could help people get earlier diagnosis and treatment.
  4. Security restrictions on liquids and laptops in airport hand luggage could be axed in the UK within two years thanks to high-tech 3D scanners. The equipment, similar to CT scanners used in hospitals, provides a clearer picture of a bag’s contents. The UK government is considering rolling out the more advanced scanners by mid-2024. The scanning technology will speed up pre-boarding checks and improve security, putting an end to those lengthy security queues.
  5. New technology developed in Australia can extract harmful chemicals from rainwater. It works by harnessing sunlight and chemical processes to separate substances in the water, and then skims them off the surface. The €13 million facility where this new tech is located can filter toxic substances that mix with rainwater and run into the ground. As the harmful chemicals in water can be one of the most insidious threats to human health, this new technology could help prevent water-borne diseases, which 7.2 million Americans alone get ill from every year.
  6. Proteus, developed by the Portuguese company Solaris Float, is a circular island of solar panels that bobs on top of water, generating renewable energy. This innovative floating solar farm in the Netherlands can soak up the rays by being installed on lakes, reservoirs and in coastal areas. Proteus’ solar panels can meticulously track the sun as it passes through the sky, maximising energy yield, which is something its competitors can’t do. Also, conventional solar farms are often criticised for the amount of land they occupy, whereas Proteus is a 38-metre-wide circular solar farm, ideal for small densely populated places.
  7. Scientists have revealed the inner workings of a key protein involved in bowel cancer, paving the way for new drugs to treat the disease. The tankyrase protein is involved in a wide range of processes in the cell, which means it could lead to better and less toxic cancer drugs. Using Nobel Prize-winning techniques, scientists found how the protein switches itself on and off by self-assembling into 3D chain-like structures. These findings could have implications for treating various cancers, as well as diabetes and inflammatory, cardiac and neurodegenerative diseases.

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