Photo: Colourbox

Technological ‘hot or not’ in 2016

Monday 08 Feb 16
Plastic solar cells, fusion energy, virtual reality and new forms of chemical energy are set to become popular technologies in 2016—if you ask five DTU researchers, who also have something to say about technologies that are soon to be consigned to the history books.

Photo: DTU Ib Chorkendorff

DTU Physics


Which technological innovation will dominate in 2016?
“I work in the field of energy science, where we are sure to find new ways of storing electrical energy— chemical energy in particular. We’re already familiar with electrolysis, which involves producing hydrogen by breaking down water into hydrogen and oxygen. This hydrogen can then be burned off in a fuel cell, thus generating electricity. As a new initiative, work is now under way to attempt to use the protons to make hydrogenated carbon dioxide. This will make it possible to create chemical compounds with a higher energy content per volume than hydrogen. This is important if the solution is to be used in the transport sector, where there are areas—such as air travel—that are not suitable for electrification.”

Which technologies will be gone in 2016?
“I don’t think we’ll be seeing much more storage of hydrogen in the form of metal hydrides. These are metals such as sodium and aluminium in powder form, which can bind hydrogen without having to be heated to high temperatures. Research in this area has not produced any noteworthy successes.”



 Photo: Ulril Jantzen Jan Madsen
Professor, Head of Section and Deputy Director

DTU Compute 



Which technological innovation will dominate in 2016?
“The Internet-of-Things (IoT) is really going to pick up the pace. More and more things are being made ‘smart’ or more ‘intelligent’ through their being fitted with small computers and biosensors that can be linked up via the Internet. The trend has been around for a while, but it’s only now that the technologies are beginning to merge.”

“This applies, for example, to ultra-low power IoT platforms, which make it possible to perform advanced calculations on sensor data using only tiny amounts of energy. The platforms can draw energy from their surroundings so they don’t need to use batteries. They will become self-supplying, and new, advanced biosensors will be integrated into the platforms. We are sure to see increased use of IoT in the fields of health, energy, production, transport and Smart Cities in general. The advance of IoT technology will inevitably be accompanied by a range of challenges, particularly with regard to security, autonomy and adaptivity, shared standards and Big Data.”

Which technologies will be gone in 2016?
“I can’t really think of any in my own professional area. All technologies are in play, and it is precisely the convergence of these technologies that opens up great opportunities.” 


 Photo: Mikal Schlosser
Søren Linderoth
Professor and Head of Department

DTU Energy

Which technological innovation will dominate in 2016?
“I think that plastic solar cells as mobile phone chargers will become popular. We at DTU Energy have been working on the development of plastic solar cells for many years, and the first practical applications are now almost within reach. The company InfinityPV—a spin-out from DTU Energy—is already producing organic solar cells, as they are known. Their distinguishing features are that they take up little room, don’t weigh much, can be rolled up, and are simply different from anything people have seen before. Plastic solar cells can be used pretty much anywhere.”

Which technologies will be gone in 2016?
“The cheap NOx purification technology LNT (Lean NOx Traps), which was particularly popular with the German automotive company Volkswagen. This purification technology for diesel vehicles is not sufficiently effective. Other purification technologies, such as SCR—which is based on ammonia and catalysis—are much more efficient and are currently being used by other automotive manufacturers, even though they are a little more expensive.”

 Photo: Private
Søren Bang Korsholm 
Senior Scientist 

DTU Physics


Which technological innovation will dominate in 2016?
“I think we’ll be hearing a lot about the first results from the world’s biggest stellarator—Wendelstein 7-X. This is a German fusion experiment that was launched last December in Greifswald, just 150 km from DTU in Lyngby. The advantage of fusion energy is that it uses small amounts of deuterium and tritium to generate a volume of energy that would otherwise require huge amounts of coal. In fact, just 25 kg of the fuel can cover the lifetime energy requirements of the average Dane.”

“I’m working with fusion energy research myself, managing a project to establish a measuring system for ITER, the world’s largest fusion experiment. It generally takes years to build up experimental facilities, but there are several enterprising small businesses backed by venture capital in both Europe and the United States that are focusing on building small but efficient fusion energy machines based on alternative concepts. It would be fantastic if one of these alternative concepts were to produce some surprisingly good news.”

Which technologies will be gone in 2016?
”I don’t think we’ll be hearing much more about the Italian inventor Andrea Rossi’s E-Cat. There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about an impending technological breakthrough based on the cold fusion machine ‘E-Cat’, whose workings are a closely guarded secret. But nothing is currently being said about the machine—and this is likely to continue.”

 Photo: Private
Peter Behrensdorff Poulsen 
Project Manager

DTU Fotonik 


Which technological innovation will dominate in 2016?
“I think that virtual reality (VR) will become mainstream through what are known as ‘head mounted displays’ in the form of, for example, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Samsung Gear VR. The price for some of the technologies is now under DKK 5,000, and the quality is good. The benefit of using VR headsets as presentation tools is that it allows users to step into a virtual world, where they can look at a stretch of road in Avedøre, for example, or experience how the light varies between products from different light fitting manufacturers. There are huge sums to be saved in making the right choices during the procurement process, rather than choosing to fit miles and miles of road with lights that provide sub-optimal illumination.”

“With the numerous VR displays that’ll become available in 2016, this transformation will move one step closer and create a parallel universe that is sure to change the way we go to school, work, meet and get our entertainment. For instance, I’m sure that VR will overhaul history lessons and add a completely new dimension to teaching. How many history books have been seen as synonymous with boredom when the history of Ancient Greece was related through an endless series of black and white photos of cracked amphoras?”

Which technologies will be gone in 2016?
“The filament light bulb and halogen lights have long since started to disappear from the lighting market, driven out by the significantly higher efficiency and durability of LED technology. However, the rising efficiency of LED solutions and the superior lighting quality they have achieved in recent years are set to make mercury lights, fluorescent strip-lights and low-energy bulbs increasingly rare.” 


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