CATALYSTS AND BUILDING BLOCKS
Many homes will have their own fuel sources, with no need to be on the electric utility grid. On site renewable energy sources might include wind, solar, and other geothermal sources. Tesla has been trialing its 10-kwh residential battery called Powerwall to store energy for backup power.
Graphene is a substance composed of pure carbon with atoms arranged in a regular hexagonal pattern similar to graphite, but in a one-atom thick sheet. With a 1-square-meter sheet weighing only 0.77 mg, the material is incredibly light yet strong. Potential applications are incredibly diverse, and include: components with higher strength to weight ratios, lower cost solar cells, lower cost display screens in mobile devices, storing hydrogen for fuel cell powered cars, medical sensors, faster charging batteries, ultra-capacitors, chemical sensors and many others. British sportswear brand inov-8 is incorporating graphene into a new running shoe to make them more flexible and stronger than traditional running shoes. Silicene is a silicon-based equivalent to carbon-based graphene with potential for atomic-level semiconductor logic.
AI "optimized" chipsets which tackle machine learning tasks and workloads will become prevalent in mobile devices and at the edge. These chips will enable ML computations to take place locally instead of in the cloud improving processing speeds and also reducing the potential for data hacks. Chip manufacturers like Qualcomm, Intel, are all active in this area. Smartphone manufacturers Huawei and Apple are already starting to ship phones with AI-ready chipsets. Apple's A11 Bionic incorporates a neural engine in its GPU to aid in Facial ID recognition and Siri voice recognition.
These devices integrate electrical and mechanical functionality on the nano scale. MEMS typically integrate transistor-like nanoelectronics with mechanical actuators, pumps, or motors, and may thereby form physical, biological, and chemical sensors.
Community labs and biohacker spaces, like Genspace and BioCurious, are emerging everywhere enabling rapid prototyping and experimentation by biodesigners who create more sustainable and healthier versions of existing and new products. Bolt Threads is disrupting textiles by engineering silk-inspired polymers (inspired by how spiders produce natural silk fibers). Future materials will be “programmed” with different properties including UV resistance, stretchiness, and strength. Another example is bioconcrete engineered as regular concrete with a healing agent mixed in.
Metamaterials are engineered to have properties not yet found in nature. These designed structures' shape, geometry, size, orientation and arrangement give meta-materials unique properties capable of manipulating electromagnetic waves: by blocking, absorbing, enhancing, or bending waves. One can envision wave bending devices that can facilitate RF transmission around corners and obstacles. In academia rudimentary cloaking devices have been demonstrated and miniaturized antennas are being implemented, but this technology is still in its infancy.
New technologies to harvest ambient energy such as light, vibration, flow, motion, pressure, magnetic fields, RF, automobile exhaust etc. will enable "battery-free" devices with semi-infinite connected life that can be installed permanently. Current energy harvesting technology capable of generating a few milliwatts (most sources) to a few watts (e.g., thermal) will give way to orders of magnitude greater capability. This enables the proliferation of connected sensors beyond the projections for current "Internet of Things" technologies.
Advances in materials technology are enabling high energy Li-air batteries which promise an energy density that rivals gasoline, offering a five-fold increase compared to traditional Li-Ion batteries. By using atmospheric oxygen instead of an internal oxidizer, these batteries could dramatically extend the time between re-charging.
Memristors are a new kind of electronic circuit element that retains memory without power. With Memristors, computers can be two orders of magnitude more efficient from a power perspective than with traditional transistor technologies. The Memristors could contain multiple petabits of persistent storage in a package as small as a sugar cube. They can be reconfigured to be either memory or CPU (logic gates) in the same package .
As sensors and actuators become a natural part of personal and public things, streams of data can be passively collected creating opportunities for the network itself to make real-time, autonomous decisions (improving efficiency and QoS). Looking at swarm behavior of animal species, like ants, herds or flocks of birds, UC Berkeley’s Swarm Lab is examining what can be leveraged from the world of nature into future theories for data flow and network efficiency.
Encoding of data in DNA grows data storage density orders of magnitudes beyond current semiconductor capabilities. Harvard researchers have already stored 700TB of data on a gram of DNA.
Dipole Coil Resonant System (DCRS) systems use a magnetic field to charge up to 40 mobile phones wirelessly powering devices up to 15 feet away. A number of researchers and technology suppliers are also working on directed wireless charging over electromagnetic waves or photons. New materials are being developed to allow devices to charge from any fixed lighting or LED system. Operators can link these systems to their wireless subscription authentication systems, such that when a device connects to an Operator wireless network, it can also receive directed wireless charging. Autonomous electric vehicles will benefit from wireless charging availability while parked or refueling.
Today’s renewables are faced with fundamental reliable storage and supply challenges. The sun does not always shine for solar. The wind does not always blow for wind mills. Storage batteries are expensive and large. What is needed is a distributed electricity storage system and an intelligent way to interconnect and control the distributed storage across utility companies. Operators are uniquely suited to deploy small electrical storage units along their network, close to distributed renewable energy generators and carrying the control signaling required to manage the intelligent renewable power storage and distribution system. To scale, operators can federate to provide cross regional and transcontinental control signaling for multiple interconnected electric utilities.
Quantum Information Processing (QIP) is a domain which combines computer science with quantum physics to extend the capabilities of information processing. Based on the novel encoding of data on qubits, QIP can solve problems much faster (in an unconventional fashion) than classical information processing. An example of QIP is provided by the recent implementation of a quantum neural network (QNN) prototype by NTT which can operate at room temperature.
Classical information is encoded with binary “bits” of 1s and 0s. In contrast, Quantum Computers operate with “qubits” which enable them to process multiple operations simultaneously. Quantum computing promises to dramatically speed up processing for crypto-security applications which factor very large numbers, as well as, for other hard optimization problems. IBM currently provides a 16-qubit quantum computer , in the cloud, for use in experiments. Affordable and commercially available quantum computers will be slow to emerge because quantum computers need to operate at absolute zero temperatures.
New nanotechnology advances are unearthing new forms of power generation through materials, such as Molybdenum Disulfide, which provide many multiples of the power generation density of traditional and evolutionary battery materials. Through single molecular layer materials, combined with nanopores, electricity can be stored and generated using osmotic pressure and salt solutions. Additionally, logic gates have been constructed using these materials and techniques, creating the potential for self-powered circuits.
New battery technology discovered by Penn State enables the generation of electricity through the conversion of CO2. Enabling the recycling of CO2 for energy production could dramatically reduce carbon emissions in the future.
Bees use chemicals in pheromones today to communicate to their hive. What if we could program biological molecules (bio-nanomachines) to use chemical signals to encode and transmit information as well as coordinate activity Inspired by nature, the advantages provided by this “molecular” approach are size, biocompatibility, and biostability. Molecular communications are especially suited to scenarios where radio sensors and electromagnetic waves won't work, for example in underground structures like tunnels, underwater, in the human body, or in disaster situations where people are trapped under rubble.
Sensationalized in science fiction stories dating back to 1943, self-replicating robots and weapons have been featured in box office hits such as the Matrix and The Terminator. In the real world of programmable materials, engineers are experimenting with using magnetics to enable machines to replicate themselves. One underlying approach uses smart grains of sand to self-replicate objects by selectively attaching to each other. MIT's self-assembly lab is currently working on an experiment called Self-Replicating Spheres.