As we take our first steps into 2011, here are some science and technological breakthroughs that the world witnessed in 2010.
Wireless electric car charging
New Zealand start-up tech company HaloIPT developed a new technology that allows charging of cars wirelessly. The company said cars can be charged on the move in the future using embedded technology. This will solve issues such as range and also reduce battery size requirements.
The Inductive Power Transfer (IPT) technology, which was developed by The University of Auckland's Power Electronics Group, uses magnetic fields to transfer power instead of cables or brushes. IPT wireless charging uses strongly coupled magnetic resonance to transfer power from a transmitting pad on the ground to a receiving pad on an electric car.
This is why an IPT wireless charging system comprises two separate elements: a primary-side power supply with track; and a secondary-side pick-up pad with controller. To charge an electric car, the vehicle has to be simply parked or even driven over a pad. Charging is immediate, robust and reliable.
Glasses-free 3D screens
3D screens that do not require glasses. Toshiba recently launched in Japan what it calls the world's first television that allows viewers to see 3D images without the need to wear special glasses, amid intensifying competition in the market.
The new 3D TV does not require users to wear special glasses, whereas other 3D-capable models require glasses that act as filters to separate images to each eye to create the illusion of depth. Toshiba's screens use processing technology to create depth-filled images and the Regza GL1 Series allow users to switch between 2D and 3D on normal TV programmes.
Recently, Apple was accorded a patent that relates to a technology allowing multiple users to view 3D images on a screen, sans a 3D glass. The project is titled Three-dimensional display system that ascertains the position of a viewer and determines the left and right eye locations, and then uses the information to navigate the pixels to a particular spot on screen which reflects it back to respective left and right eye locations.
Gesture-based controls are not a completely new idea - motion capture of some sort has been around for years. But the Kinect takes the system to another level, making it cheap enough for the home and finally freeing gamers from the tyranny of the wire. Even more than the Wii, the Kinect has promise because not only is it a game control system, but numerous tinkerers have been experimenting with it, even adapting it to PCs. Microsoft has long been criticized for making software and hardware that was friendlier to engineers than to regular users, but this is one case where they seem to have gotten it right. One could even make a case that it is a return to the days when kids would mess with the innards of the PC and come up with all kinds of neat stuff. And Kinect sales have been robust: it sold 2.5 million units in a month, beating the pace set by the Wii.
It doesn't take a lot of thinking to put this device near the top. Since its introduction in April, Apple has created a whole new category of mobile device and spawned legions of competitors - none of whom has made a significant dent yet. In the fourth fiscal quarter Apple sold 4.19 million iPads, and that was considered disappointing by Wall Street. And research group iSuppli said in October that it expects Apple to sell more than 40 million of them in 2011. But more than sales, the iPad has changed users' expectations of what a computing device can and should be.
Terrafugia, a company based in Woburn, Massachusetts, announced plans to release a car-plane hybrid. The vehicle, which will be called the Transition, is expected to be released in 2011.
The car-plane has wings that unfold for flying. The company says that the process only takes one minute. When driving, the wings can be folded back up. The vehicle still requires a runway to take off and land. The Transition is designed to fly under 10,000 feet. The vehicle has a maximum takeoff weight of 1,430 pounds, which includes fuel and passengers. On the road, the vehicle has a gas mileage of about 30 mpg.
The car-plane goes for $194,000. There may also be additional charges for a radio, a transponder or GPS. Buyers also have the option of a full-plane parachute. Owners will be required to obtain a Sport Pilot certificate, which can be acquired after 20 hours of observed flying time. Owners will have to drive the car from their garage to an airport where they can take-off to fly within a range of 400 nmi (740 km; 460 mi). It will carry two people plus luggage and will operate on a single tank of regular unleaded gas. The design of the production version was made public at AirVenture Oshkosh on 26 July, 2010.
X3 high-speed hybrid helicopters
The Eurocopter X3 is an experimental compound helicopter (half-plane, half-helicopter) aims to overcome chronic obstacles to high-speed helicopter flight by combining the advantages of fixed-wing aircraft with those of a standard helicopter, allowing it to fly at 220 knots or 400 km/hour.
Recently, Eurocopter X3 completed its Step 1 speed objective attaining a total airspeed of 180 kts (333 km/hr) in level flight at a reduced level of engine power. The stunning prototype achieved this performance objective at the DGA Flight Test base in Istres, France.
The X3 is equipped with two Rolls-Royce turboshaft engines that power a five-blade main rotor system, along with two propellers installed on short-span fixed wings. This hybrid configuration creates an advanced transportation system that offers the speed of a turboprop-powered aircraft and the full hover flight capabilities of a helicopter.
Having already surpassed the speed of a traditional helicopter, the next milestone for the demonstrator is the Step 2 phase at Eurocopter's headquarters in Marignane, France, where the X3 will enter a second set of flight tests during which it is expected to reach sustained cruise speeds in excess of 220 kts.
Immortal Adult Stem Cells
A team at the State University of New York at Buffalo, led by prof. Techung Lee, has come up with a way to grow adult stem cells continuously, offering a way to speed development of regenerative therapies.
Stem cells are the building blocks of tissue and organs and are an integral part of the body's repair system. Unlike other cells, they haven't differentiated to perform specific functions and can become any type of cell. Adult stem cells are usually extracted from bone marrow, but every kind of tissue in the body has its own associated stem cells.
By altering the genomes of the stem cells at a specific time, usually within a week, Lee produced a set of cells that will live in culture indefinitely. He declined to say exactly what part of the genome he worked on as he has filed for a patent on the process.
The stem cells Lee altered still age in the culture but they do so more slowly. With an essentially immortal line of cells, he and other scientists will be able to study them and get consistent experimental results, he said. Stem cell samples from many different people and different cell cultures might not perform the same way, and having a single cell line solves that problem.
Adult stem cells also have advantages over their more famous counterparts, embryonic stem cells. Embryonic cells sometimes grow uncontrollably, and would form tumors.
Antimatter made & trapped in lab for the first time
Have you read Dan Brown's Angels & Demons book or watched the movie, in which symbologist Robert Langdon tries to stop a legendary secret society Illuminati from destroying Vatican City with the newly discovered power of antimatter stored in a canister?
According to the book, antimatter is an extremely dangerous substance with immense destructive potential, which is unleashed upon contact with any form of normal matter, and is comparable to a small nuclear weapon. In the story, scientists have solved one of the most complicated scientific problems: the capture and storage of antimatter.
Now the story is coming true in real life as researchers at CERN's Geneva labs have recently managed to trap a sizeable amount of antihydrogenhave managed to trap a sizeable amount of antihydrogen. The development opens the path to new ways of making detailed measurements of antihydrogen. This will in turn allow scientists to compare matter and antimatter, which remains one of the biggest mysteries of science.
Scientists found life built with toxic chemical
An astrobiology research has found the first known microorganism able to thrive and reproduce using the toxic chemical arsenic, which has changed the fundamental knowledge about what comprises all known life on Earth.
This finding of an alternative biochemistry makeup will alter biology textbooks and expand the scope of the search for life beyond Earth. The research is published in this week's edition of Science Express.
Phosphorus is a central component of the energy-carrying molecule in all cells (adenosine triphosphate) and also the phospholipids that form all cell membranes. Arsenic, which is chemically similar to phosphorus, is poisonous for most life on Earth. Arsenic disrupts metabolic pathways because chemically it behaves similarly to phosphate.