Each week, we scour the worlds of innovation, tech for good and social impact to bring you seven of our top stories…
- Scientists who helped develop the COVID-19 jab have said that a cancer vaccine could become available by 2030. Whilst they refrain from using the word ‘cure’, the cancer vaccine in progress could potentially treat and fight cancer cells with great effect. Professor Ugur Sahin and Ozlem Tureci have attributed their ‘breakthrough’ findings in treating cancer cells to their earlier work on the COVID vaccine. As 1 in 2 people get cancer in their lifetime, this vaccine could save billions lives of around the world.
Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology reported success in using the resource, lignin, as a catalyst for achieving 100% sustainable aviation fuel. This is an underused natural resource, and could be exactly what the aviation industry needs to reduce their carbon emissions. If the right technologies are utilised to extract lignin (as it is difficult to extract chemically), this could transform how the aviation industry uses jet fuel, and redefine their net-zero ambitions.
A lab at the Chungbuk National University is beginning to grow healthy Cordyceps. The Cordyceps mushroom is well known for its horrifying eating habits – its eggs infect insects and kill them. Despite this, they have significant medical potential as they contain a bioactive compound cordycepin, which could potentially be developed into strong antiviral medications and even cancer drugs. These mushrooms have always been rare, but they have the potential to kick-start future developments of anti-viral medication.
- A team of researchers from the University of Waterloo have developed a new technology which can convert harmful carbon dioxide into fuels and other valuable chemicals on an industrial scale, using electrolyzers to convert the CO2 into CO using water and electricity. Carbon dioxide emissions are the primary driver of global climate change, so this new technology could be significant in the fight against climate change.
With the help of new technology, dangerous drivers are being detected on the M40 and A46 in Warwickshire every six minutes on average in a new UK-first automotive trial. From an unassuming van that holds multiple high-tech cameras parked on the side of a road, passing vehicles are now being filmed, with the footage then being analysed by both artificial intelligence and human judgement to determine whether or not motorists are using a handheld phone, or whether someone in the vehicle isn’t wearing a seatbelt. Having seen news this week of robots created with guns attached, this is an encouraging use of artificial intelligence – it could be a life-saver if it can detect lethal drivers on the road.
- Scientists have taken a key step toward greatly expanding the range of plastics that can be recycled. Research led by NREL’s Gregg Beckham builds on technology that uses oxygen and catalysts to break down plastics into smaller, biologically friendly chemical building blocks. This breakthrough is important because plastic waste is a huge global issue, with scientists estimating that by 2050 the ocean will have more plastic by weight than fish. This new technology could help curb that prediction, freeing the sea from plastic.
Scientists in Australia are testing a new system that will track thousands of satellites and space junk orbiting Earth using the same radio transmissions as car radios. Satellites are fundamental for providing communications and weather information, and yet an object floating through space even the size of a pea could be detrimental to their efficacy. This new tracking technology could be a major breakthrough for protecting the satellites that we need for a multitude of technological processes that go on in the background (or up in space in this case).
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