In July, the hunt for gravitational waves will heat up with the launch of a detector called Lisa Pathfinder, which will test technology for a gravitational wave observatory in space. Two earthbound experiments which should be able to pick up gravitational disturbances from exploding stars will also be brought online in 2015.
This month, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft awoke from a long slumber. The probe, which has been travelling for nearly nine years over 3 billion miles, will be the first spacecraft to reach the discredited planet Pluto. As it gets closer from January through July, it will begin taking hyper-detailed images.
In March, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will begin orbiting Ceres, an anomaly within the asteroid belt. The planet measures about 590 miles across and weighs a third of all other asteroids in the belt combined. It appears to be a survivor from the time the solar system was formed 4.6 billion years ago.
Next spring, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, the European particle physics laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland, will power up after two years of repairs. This time, the LHC will be back at energies nearly twice as high as in the first run.
Worldwide shipments of 3D printers are expected to grow 98 per cent in 2015. By 2020, according to research firm IDC, 10 per cent of consumer products will be available through “produce on demand” via 3D printing.
Competing on cloud
Cloud computing will be one of the 10 technology trends in 2015, according to IT analysis firm Gartner. The focus will be on promoting centrally-coordinated applications that can port across multiple devices and generate revenue streams. Cloud computing will generate some 14 million new jobs worldwide by 2015.
Scientists say 2015 will represent a turning point in the fight against the deadly Ebola virus, which has now killed over 7,500 people. Two vaccines could reach West Africa by January — one from pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline and the other, from Iowa company NewLink Genetics.
Two weeks ago, a European satellite beamed images to Earth using new laser-based communications technology. The images were a test of a $562 million data highway being constructed, called the European Data Relay Satellite, which will allow faster transmission of large amounts of data.
Rise of drones
Thousands of drones are expected to take flight in the coming months, serving a variety of purposes — warfare, delivery, surveillance, wildlife documentation and agriculture, among others. GoPro Inc is developing its own line of consumer drones and Facebook has acquired Titan Aerospace, a maker of solar-powered drones.
Cancer immunotherapy, Science’s breakthrough of 2013, continues to surge as researchers amass evidence that the immune system can be a powerful ally against tumours. Dozens of clinical trials are under way.
Most first-generation wearable technologies are functional but far from being fashionable. Gartner predicts that sales will grow to 68.1 million units in 2015. Designers who’ve already jumped at the chance to assist in creating wearable tech 2.0 include Diane Von Furstenberg and Ralph Lauren.
German engineers have made a new material which could make future trains much lighter, stronger and safer. Two layers of aluminum hold a metal alloy “foam”, making the material stronger than fibreglass. Train bogies assembled from aluminum foam are expected to be built in 2015.
In 2014, scientists at University of Rochester managed to produce a cheap “invisibility cloak”. Future uses include a way to hide a 3D object from magnetic waves, cloak sound, hide metal objects from a magnetic field and make an entire city impervious to the seismic waves from an earthquake.
The way to deal with the limits of lithium-ion battery technology is to build bigger batteries. But new chemical science could lead to breakthroughs in 2015, experts say, with batteries made of a sodium-based, complex metal hydride.
Asteroid-mining company Deep Space Industries Inc plans to launch a fleet of prospecting spacecraft in 2015 and begin harvesting metals and water from near-Earth asteroids within a decade. It will inspect potential mining targets with 25-kg spacecraft it calls Firefly.