Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering

Innovations

Producing plastics sustainably: perspectives

  • Posted by QEPrize Admin
  • 28 May 2019

Image of a tropical beach with palm trees littered with seaweed and plastics. Uwe Bornscheuer is biotechnologist and holds the chair for Biotechnology and Enzyme Catalysis at the University of Greifswald in northeastern Germany. Gert Weber, a structural biologist and biochemist, is affiliated with the Helmholtz-Zentrum-Berlin, Bessy II Synchrotron. They have teamed up to improve the catalytic properties of plastic-degrading enzymes for use in sustainable recycling – iteratively engineering proteins on the basis of molecular structure.

Summary

We’ve long celebrated plastics for their strength and simple manufacture, but their high production rates and uncontrolled disposal have turned them into a global environmental burden. The amount of industrially-produced plastics increases year-on-year, and their production depends on an ever-declining resource – fossil fuels. For us to limit environmental pollution and prepare for the reduction in crude oil, we need to introduce more sustainable (and biodegradable) polymers into the supply chain and stop wasting our existing oil-based plastics – ensuring that they enter a circular and sustainable economy.

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Just one drop – why we need point-of-care diagnostics

  • Posted by QEPrize Admin
  • 13 May 2019

Close up image of a person checking their blood sugar levels using a glucometer

Researchers at Colorado State University have developed a way to detect low levels of antibodies in a person’s blood – potentially allowing the individual to get treatment before they even feel sick. Brian Geiss, a senior researcher in the project, explores the possibilities of such a point-of-care diagnostic below.

“The world is becoming a smaller place” has become a bit of a cliché, but it does have a kernel of truth to it. I can be sitting on my porch in Colorado drinking coffee in the morning, and 12 hours later be having a sushi lunch in Tokyo. The movement of people, goods, and materials all over the world has become so fast and efficient that anything and anyone can get to any part of the world in less than 36 hours. Compared to just 100 years ago, our society has gone from relatively isolated independent countries to a robust interconnected network with constant flow between nodes.

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Kodama: 3D creation made child’s play

  • Posted by QEPrize Admin
  • 6 June 2018

Kodama is a new platform launching today (6th June) on Kickstarter that allows people to intuitively express their imagination in 3D environments. The first commercial use of the technology, Kodama3DGo, will allow kids – or adults with a taste for imagination – to create in three dimensions by moving the 3DGo controller with their hands.

We sat down with Charles Leclercq, Founder and Director at Kodama, to learn more about where the technology started.

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AI: The future of music creation?

  • Posted by QEPrize Admin
  • 29 March 2018

The evolution of music creation has always been rife with controversy and resistance. Take the words of early 20th century classical guitar virtuoso Andres Segovia.

“Electric guitars are an abomination, whoever heard of an electric violin? An electric cello? Or for that matter an electric singer?”

But as Segovia probably knew; breaking barriers and ruffling feathers is the backbone of art and music. As with evolution of technology in any industry, the sea of change pays no respect to protests from the old guard. These days, electric violins, cellos and even singers are commonplace. As for electric guitars? Last year over one million electric guitars were sold in the US.

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Reflecting on displays

  • Posted by QEPrize Admin
  • 20 February 2018

Electronically displayed information is everywhere; smartphones, laptops, TV, advertising billboards, wearables… the list of devices we use goes on and on. These displays are mostly based on either liquid crystal (LCD) or organic light emitting diode (OLED) technology. These are great technologies, but they are not without limitations. We have all experienced the poor readability of a phone screen in sunlight and short battery life, largely due to the high power consumption of the display. Recent research has also shown that evening use of these light-emitting devices can negatively affect sleep and next-morning alertness.

So how can we design the next generation of displays to address these issues? A promising approach is to develop displays which can reflect natural ambient light or room lights to illuminate the screen, rather than using the powerful backlighting used in LCDs. Deployed in eReader devices, reflective displays provide vastly improved power consumption and outdoor readability. But this current form of reflective display technology cannot render good colour, nor deliver video rate refresh rates – a major limiting factor to wider application.

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Dr Vint Cerf – 5 years on from winning the QEPrize

  • Posted by QEPrize Admin
  • 5 February 2018

Dr Vinton Cerf was one of the recipients of the inaugural QEPrize, taking the accolade in 2013 for his part in creating the Internet. He was awarded the prize alongside Dr Robert Kahn, Louis Pouzin, Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Marc Andreessen, whose work gave rise to the fundamental architecture of the internet, the World Wide Web and the browser. We caught up with Cerf, who is now vice president and Chief Internet Evangelist for Google, to find out what his team has been working on since he received the prize.

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Digital technology and the changing world

  • Posted by QEPrize Admin
  • 1 February 2018

The QEPrize has often put a spotlight on technological innovations, with the creators of the Internet and the World Wide Web receiving the award in 2013, and the inventors of the digital imaging sensor taking the prize last year. These two pivotal developments in technology have truly changed the way people communicate all over the world. The impacts of the technologies have also transformed many industries, from entertainment, to education, science and medicine.

Last year’s Create the Future report revealed the vast scale of the impact of technological innovations on society. Respondents from 10 countries picked computers and the internet as the most important innovations in the last 100 years, with artificial intelligence and robotics following closely behind. However, although people recognised AI and robotics as important, they did not necessarily see them as relevant to their daily lives.

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QEPrize winner produces breakthrough sensor for photography, life sciences and security

  • Posted by QEPrize Admin
  • 5 January 2018

Sample photo taken with the Quanta Image Sensor. It is a binary single-photon image, so if the pixel was hit by one or more photons, it is white; if not, it is black.

QEPrize winner Eric Fossum, together with engineers from Dartmouth’s Thayer School of Engineering, has produced a new imaging technology that may revolutionise medical and life sciences research, security, photography and cinematography.

The new technology is called the Quanta Image Sensor, or QIS. It will enable highly sensitive, more easily manipulated and higher quality digital imaging than is currently available. The sensor can reliably capture and count single photons, generating a resolution as high as one megapixel, as fast as thousands of frames per second. Plus, the QIS can accomplish this in low light, at room temperature, using mainstream image sensor technology. Previous technology required large pixels, low temperatures or both.

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