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2022 or sci fi?

7 January, 2022

The new year provides us with a time to pause, reflect, and look forward and think about the year ahead. It also gives us a chance to see what other people’s crystal balls are saying.

Our attention this week has been drawn to The Economist’s piece on 22 emerging technologies to watch in 2022. Pieces like these never make for dull reading, verging on science fiction featuring classics like brain interfaces and flying electric taxis. But what piqued our interest was the intrinsic sustainability focus that many of these technologies have, particularly in terms of environment.

Heat pumps, harnessing the unique properties of refrigerant gases that allow energy to be used three times more effectively than other heating sources, are one example that hold great promise for decarbonising our homes and other buildings: buildings that themselves may be the result of 3D printing. Meanwhile, small-scale direct CO2 capture projects that remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it safely have opened up opportunities to permanently store carbon emissions, an essential step on the road to net zero, and these are expected to accelerate in 2022.

Artificial meat, vertical farming and personalised nutrition may also pave the way for more sustainable consumption, while hydrogen-powered planes and container ships with sails may also change the way we transport ourselves and our goods.

The pessimistic view would be that the sustainability focus in this list is more an indicator necessity than ambition. But with the possibility that the adoption of new technologies will be rapid rather than incremental, we’re holding out on some of these being truly transformative in 2022 and the years to come.

By Patrick Bapty

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