Tech

The greatest inventions of 2015

Donald Trump. The Force Awakens. The droped shovel that sounded like Smells Like Teen Spirit.

There were many cultural highlights to 2015 that'll live long in the memories of search engines and pub quizzes. But while we marveLled at the internet's weekly offerings of viral gold, the world's engineers and scientists were busy getting on creating devices and inventions that would change our world for the better.

From fantastic medical breakthroughs to giant generators that could revolutionise energy production, these are the greatest inventions of 2015.

  • The greatest inventions of 2015

    The Wendelstein 7-X Stellarator

    Sure, it's taken nine years to build and over a million hours of construction time, but this year marked the moment that the Wendelstein 7-X stellarator was switched on for the first time - which is why we're including it in this list.

    In brief, this 16-metre-wide reactor in a scaffolding-riddled room at the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physicsof Greifswald, north east Germany, holds the potential to limitless energy on Earth.

    To find out more about it, head here.

  • The greatest inventions of 2015 1

    Pantelligent

    Try as they might, the cooking abilities of many will never extend beyond the accolade of "burning things".  

    The Pantelligent is one of those inventions that notices a simple problem and provides a simple solution: helping bad cooks gain an understanding of how hot their pan is, and how long they should be cooking a dish for.

    A heat sensor in the pan sends data to a smartphone via a Bluetooth transmitter in the handle. A connected app will then help time how long you should be cooking a selected dish for - from frying an egg to nailing the perfect rare steak. 

    Get it here

  • The greatest inventions of 2015 2

    Neurotechnology prosthetic hand

    Prosthetics have come a long way from metal hooks and plaster-coloured plastic oddities. Take this fine specimen - a prosthetic hand developed by DARPA’s Revolutionizing Prosthetics programme that allowed a 28-year-old paralysed man to "feel" again after it was connected directly to his brain.

    "Prosthetic limbs that can be controlled by thoughts are showing great promise, but without feedback from signals traveling back to the brain it can be difficult to achieve the level of control needed to perform precise movements," said DARPA programme manager Justin Sanchez. "By wiring a sense of touch from a mechanical hand directly into the brain, this work shows the potential for seamless bio-technological restoration of near-natural function."

    Incredible. 

  • The greatest inventions of 2015 3

    Be My Eyes app

    Be My Eyes is an incredible, useful app experience, connecting sighted people with blind people around the world.

    The premise is simple: if a blind person on the Be My Eyes network needs help reading a label or identifying something, they can open up the Be My Eyes app and connect to a volunteer - who can then "see" for them via their smartphone camera.

    Download it here and find something more useful to do with your iPhone than "playing" Tinder.

  • The greatest inventions of 2015 4

    SpaceX's Falcon-9 Rocket

    Sure, Elon Musk's space company might sound like a mouldy night club that should have been shut down in late nineties, but don't let SpaceX's clumsy name put you off.

    This December they managed to prove that their Falcon-9 rocket was capable of taking off from Earth, deliver a payload of satellites into orbit before returning to terra firma for another flight.

    It was a huge achievement, crucial in paving the way toward cheap(er) space flight. Epic stuff.

    Read more about it here.

  • The greatest inventions of 2015 5

    Janicki Omniprocessor

    Peter Janicki is a very smart man. This is his 'omniprocessor' - a machine capable of turning raw sewage into clean drinking water and energy.

    The CEO of Janicki Bioenergy showed off his machine to Bill Gates earlier this year, capturing the attention of the wider media as to the potential of his machine. Sewage waste is pumped into the machine where it's dried and burnt. The resulting steam is used to turn pistons to create energy, before the steam is collected and filtered to become drinking water. 

    Currently being used in a pilot project in Senegal, the Omniprocessor could change the face of the developing world in years to come.

  • The greatest inventions of 2015 6

    Nike Flyease

    In 2012, Nike recieved a letter from Matthew Walzer - a 16 year old for whom teenage life is made all the more complicated by Cerebral Palsy. Walzer had worn Nike's basketball shoes all his life as their high ankle support helped him to walk - but Walzer found tying the shoe's laces almost impossible.

    Nike's answer was the Flyease - a high-top sneaker with a side zip wrapping around the heel of the shoe. Walzer, and other athletes who struggle with untying their shoes, are able zip and unzip them easily with one hand, giving them an independence they don't have with other trainers.

    Read more about it here.

  • The greatest inventions of 2015 7

    RevMed XSTAT 30

    Should you be unfortunate enough to find yourself suffering from severe abdominal wounds suffered on a battlefield, you're going to hope your medic has one of these in their kit bag.

    The XSTAT pumps biocompatible sponge into an open wound where they expand and block any major bleeding, giving precious minutes in which the patient might be transferred to a hospital.

    The XSTAT 30 has been tested since 2014, but this year RevMed's incredible wound-healing syringe was passed for civilian use by the US FDA. 

    An invention you're never going to want to see in action.

  • The greatest inventions of 2015 8

    TZOA Pollution Monitor

    The creation of electrician Kevin R. Hart and nurse Laura Moe, the TZOA Pollution Monitor is your very own personal pollution monitor - which is much cooler than it sounds.

    Air is sucked into the palm-sized TZOA via a fan, passing in front of a laser. This laser is able to determine what particles are in the air, sending a report to a connected smartphone. 

    It's hoped that the device will be able to help keep citizens better informed about the air quality of the cities they live in, allowing them to avoid peak pollution areas and adapt their lives to ensure they don't expose themselves to harmful doses of pollution.

    You can preorder one here.

  • The greatest inventions of 2015 9

    Care-O-bot 4

    While we're still some years to owning a real-life BB-8, future robots will owe a debt to the likes of the Care-O-bot 4. 

    A German droid from Fraunhofer IPA, the Care-O-bot 4 interacts with humans through its electronic interface (that up-turned face) and recognise a range of languages. Its limbs aren't hugely dexterous, but it can navigate rooms autonomously and respond to commands.

    The robot revolution is coming

  • The greatest inventions of 2015 10

    REV’IT! Seeflex motorbike armour

    At speeds over 30mph, the smooth surface of tarmac becomes something similar to aggressive sandpaper to any motorcyclist unfortunate enough to take a tumble. 

    While leather jackets offer some protection, these Seeflex are the best armour you can put between yourself and the road. Lightweight and comfortable, their special materials are able to absorb the worst of impacts and prevent you losing a great deal of skin if you come into contact with the road.

    Check out the full range here.

  • The greatest inventions of 2015 11

    LG's flexible 77-inch OLED TV

    LG makes really, really good TVs. Case in point: the 77EG9900. While it didn't win any awards for its hideous title, it did pick up a Red Dot Design award for its ability to bend.

    Yep. A 77-inch TV screen, displaying the brightest colours and darkest blacks, that can bend to accommodate a single viewer or crowd of watchers. 

    Sure, you're not going to buy one. But when the same technology turns up on smartphones and tablets in a year's time, you'll owe this giant TV a word of thanks.

  • The greatest inventions of 2015 12

    Pháin backpack

    The most hipster of fashion statements - an upcycled cement bag that doubles as the most durable backpack the world has ever seen.

    Once used to transport cement, the Pháin bag consists of thick kraft paper on the outside and a durable and tear-resistant, glued PP-woven fabric on the inside. Impossibly light and strong, it'll be all over the hipster quarters by the end of 2016.

    Find out more here.

  • The greatest inventions of 2015 13

    Plantalámpara plant light

    The Universidad de Ingeniería y Tecnología has actually managed to make a light powered by plants.

    During photosynthesis, the plant's waste decomposes in the soil, producing electrons during oxidation. It's these electrons that are key to the light's power source - drawn in by electrodes in the soil. This process can light an LED bulb for up to two hours.

    It's a hugely useful product for regions of the world where power outages might last days at a time. Find out more about it here.

  • The greatest inventions of 2015 14

    The Drinkable Book

    Here's a book you can judge by it's cover.

    Developed by Theresa Dankovich at the University of Virginia, The Drinkable Book is designed for use in developing communities that might not have access to clean water sources. The pages are laced with silver nanoparticles, lethal for microbes.

    In addition to helping people create drinkable water from dirty water sources, the book is printed with information on the importance of clean water.

    A good read, which you can find out more about here.