Here are my top 10 innovations that are coming to the forefront in 2010. Of course, none of these would be possible without the economic engine that is embodied by the USA Science & Engineering Festival, which is creating the innovative minds of the future.
1) High-tech treatment of nuclear waste, a technology that solves the key bottleneck to new nuclear growth and old nuclear cleanup. Example: stealth company Kurion of New York, NY.
2) Coal to Liquid Technologies are the culmination of decades of innovative processes now ready for widespread commercialization. That makes abundant U.S. coal a clean fuel. Example: Accelergy of Houston, TX.
3) LEDs for clean water. Using ultraviolet light emitting diodes (LEDs), which operate at 265nm—the optimum wavelength for germicidal disinfection—represents a breakthrough in water purification. Example: CrystalIS of Green Island, NY.
4) Nanotechnology is transforming cancer treatment by using precise targeting of out-of-control cells, which limits the harsh side-effects of poisoning people with chemotherapy and burning them with radiation. Example: Cerulean Pharma of Cambridge, MA.
5) Rapid Vaccine discovery. Quickly evolving antigens need quickly evolving vaccines. Example: Genocea Biosciences of Cambridge, MA.
6) Wireless TV & Video at 60GHz cuts the cords and the messy morass of connecting wires to create higher quality in-room wireless video area networks. Example: SiBeam of Sunnyvale, CA, with offices in San Diego, Tokyo and Seoul.
7) Efficient data centers at light-speed. By integrating high-performance optics directly with silicon-based electronics, it is possible to bring “fiber to the chip” connectivity to market. Example: Luxtera of Carlsbad, CA.
8) Touch-screens so cheap they’re disposable. Nanostructured materials offer display devices and components with enhanced performance at a lower manufacturing cost. Example: Cambrios of Sunnyvale, CA.
9) Powerless Memory, using the magnetism of electron spin. Technology innovation makes it feasible to store information in magnetic material integrated with silicon circuitry to deliver the speed of SRAM with the non-volatility of Flash. Example: Everspin Technologies of Chandler, AZ.
10) Bio-algae produced fuels. Using the tools of modern biotechnology to identify and optimize strains of algae for the production of biological oils as a substitute for petroleum-based crude oil. Example: Sapphire Energy of San Diego.
[Editor’s Note: As the decade comes to an end, we’ve asked Xconomists and other technology leaders around the country to identify the top innovations they’ve seen in their fields the past 10 years, or predict the top disruptive technologies that will impact the next decade.]