In mid-October, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) released its list of top 10 emerging technologies in chemistry for 2022. This year marks the fourth edition of the initiative, which “highlights the value of chemical sciences in the transition to a green economy and a more sustainable world,” according to an article in Chemistry International, which is published by IUPAC.
Appropriately, IUPAC’s top emerging technologies align with the ambitions of the much-talked-about United Nations sustainable development goals, which are part of an agenda that provides “a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future,” according to the UN.
The 10 technologies that made IUPAC’s list, after consideration by a panel of judges, spotlight scientific fields as diverse as materials science, energy storage, drug discovery, and education. All the technologies, which were proposed by researchers from around the globe, could provide solutions to real-life problems and transform the way we live.
IUPAC president Javier García Martínez, who was a member of the selection panel and is on C&EN’s advisory board, believes these innovations provide opportunities to transform our world. For example, many of the technologies could increase the connection between science and society by improving the public’s understanding of how basic science is working to solve real-life problems. In the press release announcing the winners, García Martínez says, “With this initiative, IUPAC informs policy and industry leaders, granting agencies, and the general public about technologies that are already creating new opportunities and opening new avenues for research and industry.”
IUPAC’s top emerging technologies for 2022 are aerogels, fiber batteries, film-based fluorescent sensors, the synthesis of liquid solar fuels, nanoparticle megalibraries, nanozymes, rational vaccines with spherical nucleic acids, sodium-ion batteries, textile displays, and virtual reality–enabled interactive modeling.
There are some interesting choices on the list. One I was not expecting to see is aerogels, which are ultralight materials derived from gels. They are used as thermal insulation in the aerospace industry, but it is not this fascinating application that wins them their spot. Rather, it’s their versatility as catalysts, as supercapacitors, in drug delivery systems, and in water and air purification systems, in which aerogels have shown promise removing volatile organic compounds from air and toxic substances from water.
Fiber batteries also caught my attention. Their main application so far is as a form of energy storage, such as in wearable electronics. Fiber batteries are thin, long, and highly flexible, making them ideal for incorporation into wearable devices as well as printed electronics.
While on the topic of innovative technologies, it is worth noting that C&EN will be announcing its 10 Start-Ups to Watch in the Nov. 7th issue. Don’t miss it!
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