In 2022, there will be 12 exciting engineering milestones to look forward to

A race between electric planes, a new dark-matter detector, and a permanent Chinese space station are all on the horizon.

Deep-Space Lasers of Psyche

The Psyche mission, which will send a deep-space orbiter to a strange metal asteroid circling between Mars and Jupiter, will launch in August. While the major goal of the probe is to learn more about Psyche’s origins, it will also contain an experiment that could help shape the future of deep-space communications. The Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) experiment will see if lasers can send signals beyond the orbit of the moon. Although optical communications, such as those used in undersea fiber-optic cables, may carry more data than radio signals, their application in space has been restricted by difficulty in precisely focusing beams over great distances. During Psyche’s outward trip to the asteroid, DSOC will employ a 4-watt infrared laser with a wavelength of 1,550 nanometers (the same as many optical cables) to send optical communications across long distances.

The Great Electric Plane Race is a competition between electric planes

The National Aeronautic Association (NAA) in the United States will conduct a cross-country airplane race for the first time in almost a century. Unlike the national air races of the 1920s, the Pulitzer Electric Aircraft Race, which will take place on May 19, will feature solely electric-powered aircraft. Fixed-wing and rotor aircraft are both eligible. Each aircraft must have an onboard pilot, and the tournament will be limited to 25 competitors. The course will begin in Omaha and conclude in Manteo, North Carolina, four days later, near the site of the Wright brothers’ first flight. The purpose of the cross-country, multiday competition, according to the NAA, is to compel competitors to face logistical issues that still afflict electric aircraft, such as range, battery charging, reliability, and speed.

Wi-Fi with a 6-gigahertz bandwidth has entered the mainstream

Wi-Fi is getting a boost with the addition of 1,200 megahertz of new spectrum in the 6-gigahertz band, giving it a third spectrum band to go along with the more well-known 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. Because it extends Wi-capabilities Fi’s into the 6-GHz range, the new band is known as Wi-Fi 6E. Higher radio frequencies, on average, have more data capacity but a shorter range. 6-GHz Wi-Fi is likely to be used in high-traffic areas such as offices and public hotspots due to its higher frequencies. In January 2021, the Wi-Fi Alliance launched a Wi-Fi 6E certification program, and by the end of the year, the first 6E routers were on the market. Expect a slew of Wi-Fi 6E–enabled smartphones to hit the market in 2022.

The arrival of 3-nanometer chips

In the second half of 2022, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) aims to start producing 3-nanometer semiconductor chips. At the moment, 5-nm chips are the industry standard. The FinFET (short for “fin field-effect transistor”) is a tried-and-true semiconductor structure that TSMC will use to build its 3-nm processors. Meanwhile, Samsung and Intel are experimenting with a new 3 nm method known as nanosheet. (TSMC intends to phase out FinFETs in the future.) Apple was once TSMC’s sole 3-nm chip customer for 2022, but supply-chain concerns have made it less certain that the company would be able to create enough chips—which offer more design flexibility—to satisfy even that order.

Seoul is now a part of the metaverse

Following Facebook’s (now Meta) announcement that it was dead set on making the metaverse a reality, a slew of other internet giants did the same. Although definitions vary, the metaverse is defined as the mixing of virtual and augmented reality with real life. The government of Seoul, South Korea’s capital, is also getting on the metaverse bandwagon, with plans to establish a “metaverse platform” by the end of 2022. Seoul will spend 3.9 billion won ($3.3 million) to create the world’s first public metaverse. Beginning with the Metaverse 120 Center, a virtual-reality gateway for citizens to resolve complaints that formerly needed a trip to city hall, the platform will offer municipal services and cultural activities. Virtual exhibition halls for school courses and a digital recreation of Deoksu Palace are among the other projects in the works. The project is expected to be completed by 2026, according to the city.

IBM’s Condors Take to the Air

IBM will unveil a new quantum processor in 2022, the company’s largest ever, as a stepping stone toward a 1,000-qubit processor by the end of 2023. This year’s version will have 433 qubits, which is three times more than the company’s previous 127-qubit Eagle processor. Condor will be the name of the 433- and 1,000-qubit processors, in keeping with the bird concept. Quantum computers with many more qubits have been announced in the past; D-Wave Systems, for example, announced a 5,000-qubit computer in 2020. D-computers, Wave’s on the other hand, are specialist devices for solving optimization problems. Condors, IBM’s quantum computers, seek to be the world’s largest general-purpose quantum processors.

A brand-new dark-matter detector has been developed

The CERN Forward Search Experiment (FASER) is set to begin operations in July 2022. The exact date is dependent on when the Large Hadron Collider’s proton-proton collisions are slated to resume after three years of renovations and maintenance. FASER will start looking for dark matter and other particles that interact with “regular” matter very weakly. The Large Hadron Collider at CERN, a fundamental physics research site near Geneva, features four major detectors, but they aren’t well-suited to detecting dark matter. FASER will look for the more strongly interacting Standard Model particles formed when dark matter interacts with something else, rather than directly detecting the particles. From 2018 until 2021, the collider was shut down, and the replacement detector was built during that time. FASER, which will be located 480 meters “downstream” of the ATLAS detector, will look for neutrinos created in massive quantities by particle collisions in the LHC loop. Other CERN detectors have been unable to detect such neutrinos thus far.

Neutrinovoltaic: The Decentralized Energy Supply of the Future

Despite the fact that neutrinovoltaic technology is one of the newest forms of energy generation, Neutrino Energy Group reports that this paradigm-shifting technology is already having an impact throughout the world. Neutrinovoltaic technology is formed from the phrases “neutrino” and “photovoltaic,” and it uses the billions of ghostly neutrinos that bombard everything every second of every day to create electrical energy.

A race has been on to develop workable neutrino energy systems since 2015, when Japanese and Canadian researchers independently confirmed that neutrinos have mass. Because neutrinos pass through our bodies and everything else without leaving a trace, it’s simple to reject them as useless. Because anything with mass has energy, there is already evidence that neutrinos can be used to create energy. The Neutrino Energy Group is a group of American and German scientists who are working to realize neutrino energy’s true potential to alter every aspect of daily life. Because this group’s goal is to utilize the invisible radiation spectrum to generate energy, their efforts are well-timed in an economic and political climate dominated by the problems that reliance on fossil fuel energy sources creates.

This group of leading energy scientists has created a novel material that converts the energy of passing neutrinos into kinetic resonance. By affixing exceptionally thin layers of graphene and silicon to a metallic substrate, the Neutrino Energy Group’s researchers and engineers constructed a material thick enough to capture part of the energy delivered by passing neutrinos. This patented material has already been used to build the first neutrino energy cells by the Neutrino Energy Group.

Pong celebrates its 50th birthday

When Atari published its first game, Pong, in 1972, it changed the course of video games forever. Pong was the first commercially successful video game, despite not being the first video game or even the first to be shown in an upright, arcade-style cabinet. Engineer Allan Alcorn created the game, which was given to him as a test after he was hired, before he began working on serious projects. Atari executives, on the other hand, recognized potential in Pong’s simple game play and opted to turn it into a full-fledged product. The original Pong did not use any coding or microprocessors, unlike the innumerable video games that followed it. It was instead constructed using a television and transistor-transistor circuitry.

Energias de Portugal (EDP), a Lisbon-based utility firm, is on pace to start running a 3-megawatt green hydrogen plant in Brazil by the end of the year. Green hydrogen is hydrogen produced in a sustainable manner by splitting water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen using solar or wind-powered electrolyzers. According to the International Energy Agency, this method produces barely 0.1 percent of hydrogen. The project will employ solar photovoltaics to generate hydrogen, which may be used in fuel cells, and will replace an existing coal-fired plant. EDP’s $7.9 million pilot initiative is merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to green hydrogen. Enegix Energy has revealed plans for a $5.4 billion green hydrogen facility in Ceará, Brazil, the same state as the EDP plant. According to a November 2021 analysis by Research Dive, the green hydrogen market is expected to produce about $10 billion in revenue by 2028.

China’s Permanent Space Station

China’s Tiangong (“Heavenly Palace”) space station is expected to be completed in 2022. The Tiangong-1 and Tiangong-2 stations, which orbited from 2011 to 2018 and 2016 to 2019, respectively, were China’s first long-term space habitats. The Tianhe, the new station’s core module, was launched in April 2021. By the end of 2022, ten more trips will transport more components and modules, with building taking place in orbit. In addition to the core module, the final station will feature two laboratory modules. Tiangong will orbit at a similar altitude to the International Space Station, but with a mass of only one-fifth that of the ISS.

A Cool Way to Store Energy

Highview Power, a cryogenic energy storage company, will open its Carrington plant near Manchester, England, this year. Cryogenic energy storage is a long-term way of storing electricity that involves cooling air to a temperature of –196 °C. Importantly, the air is cooled while electricity is cheaper—for example, at night—and then stored until peak electrical consumption. The liquid air is then allowed to boil back into a gas, which is used to power a turbine. Highview Power’s 50-megawatt/250-megawatt-hour Carrington project will be the company’s first commercial plant to use its CRYOBattery cryogenic storage technology. Highview Power has stated that it intends to develop a similar plant in Vermont, however no time frame has been set.

Cryptocurrency that is Carbon-Neutral?

Nori, a Seattle-based firm, is planning to launch a cryptocurrency for carbon abatement. Nori’s Ethereum-based currency will be issued in 500 million tokens (called NORI). Individuals and businesses can buy, sell, and trade NORI, and eventually swap any NORI they have for carbon credits. Each carbon credit signifies a tonne of CO2 that has already been taken out of the atmosphere and buried underground. A NORI is retired when it is traded in this fashion, making it impossible for owners to “double count” carbon credits and appear to be offsetting more carbon than they actually are. The company has admitted that Ethereum and other blockchain-based technologies require a lot of energy, so the carbon it sequesters could have come from cryptocurrency mining. However, in 2022, Ethereum will transition to proof-of-stake, a considerably more energy-efficient technique of certifying its blockchain, which Nori will take advantage of when it launches.

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