Semprius (Durham, N.C.) was named one the MIT Tech Review‘s top ten emerging technologies. The company uses glass lenses to concentrate light over gallium arsenide photovoltaic cells to gain energy conversion efficiencies as high as 34 percent. Credit: Semprius.

Last week the editors of MIT’s Technology Review released their annual list of what they see as the 10 most important technologies to have emerged in the last year. According to the website, the “TR10” selected by the editors are the “technologies we believe will have the greatest impact on the shape of innovation in years to come.”

The TR editors are open-minded about what the impact of the technology is. “But in all cases, these are breakthroughs with the potential to transform the world,” the website says.

Four of the ten technologies are directly tied to materials science and two may affect the practice of materials science.

The four are:

Ultra-efficient solar

Solar start-up, Semprius, is reducing the cost of solar energy using gallium arsenide, glass lens concentrators and innovative manufacturing processes. Last winter they demonstrated a 34 percent solar-to-electricity conversion solar panel.

Solar microgrids

Solar-powered microgrids generate enough DC power to operate LED lights and recharge cell phones in areas where grid power absent.

3D transistors

Intel has invented a 3D transistor that uses less electricity and can be packed more densely on silicon chips, which would let handheld devices do more and use less power.

High-speed materials discovery

Wildcat Discovery Technologies has adapted pharma combinatorial chemistry methods to finding and testing new materials for battery components across a very large number of combinations.

The two whose impacts could spill over to affect materials science are:


A grass-roots approach to raising research funds. See our earlier story.

Light-field photography

A company has developed a light-field camera that allows an image to be focused after it’s been recorded. This could be a breakthrough to materials scientists who work in the field, such as failure analysis experts.

The other technologies are

Egg stem cells

A technology for extending a woman’s fertile years

Faster Fourier transforms

A new way of performing Fourier transforms could allow streams of data to be processed very quickly, which could impact applications like medical imaging, Wi-Fi routers and 4G cellular networks.

Nanopore sequencing

Commercial machines that read DNA bases directly could make genome sequencing faster, cheaper, convenient and routine.

Facebook’s Timeline

Facebook’s implementation of Timeline allows the company to collect and analyze consumer data on an unprecedented scale.