The Engineer’s Top 10 Technologies of 2010

Reporter

The rapid pace of new technology is part of what makes writing for The Engineer so fascinating.

But with so many ideas and inventions appearing every week, it’s sometimes difficult to maintain perspective on which are the most groundbreaking, influential or exciting.

So for our last blog of the year we thought we’d look back at the last 12 months and pick our favourite new technology stories.

These are the developments that have the biggest potential to change our society, or at least attract the most attention.

As for which story has been the most popular on our website, that honour surprisingly goes to our coverage of a new gear-changing system for downhill mountain bikes.

And the article that’s generated the most comment from our readers? Perhaps less surprisingly, it’s this editorial on the UK’s supposed engineering skills shortage.

In full then, The Engineer’s Top 10 Technologies of 2010:

1. Printed body parts

Nothing captures the imagination quite like space travel, but visiting other planets just yet is out of the question, even for NASA.

A small team of British engineers is hoping to change that with designs for Skylon, a commercial spaceplane that could become the first craft to break away from the Earth and return without jettisoning any payload.

At a projected cost of $10m (£6.4m) per flight, it’s unlikely easyJet is going to start operating a service (easyRocket?). But it could make a trip to Mars or nearby asteroids much more feasible for commercial companies.

 

4. The iPad

The unveiling of the UK’s prototype unmanned combat aircraft, Taranis, was a bit like one of those movie-based immersive theme-park rides.

Dramatic music, flashing lights, smoke machines running on overdrive – I half-expected our seats to start shaking and the craft to rise up and start firing lasers at us.

Of course the Ministry of Defence has given away very few details of what could become its first autonomous stealth fighter/bomber, but just seeing its eerie glow and angular outline from afar was enough to shock and awe in equal measure.

 

8. Self-repairing solar cells

Ok, so we’re probably not going to see motorways in the sky but the Terrafugia deserves a mention for creating the most references to classic futuristic cartoon The Jetsons at The Engineer towers this year.

A mere $194,000 (£129,0000) will give you the ability to skip all those nasty traffic jams and take to the sky, if you can find half a kilometre of road to take off from in the first place.

It doesn’t fold up into a briefcase, though.