Like the previous year, 2021 was dominated by the global fight against the coronavirus. But unlike 2020, when the pandemic first erupted, this year has seen an increase in innovations in the fight against COVID-19.
Governments and citizens alike place their hopes largely in the development of vaccines, which have been approved by health agencies and deployed around the world this year.
As vaccines steal the show from the main innovations of 2021, we have seen many exciting developments in technology and science outside of the context of the pandemic. Here is an overview of the main innovations and inventions that 2021 has brought to us.
The speed at which coronavirus vaccines have been developed, tested and deployed as the battle to contain the coronavirus rages has been hailed as one of the great scientific and social feats of the year.
The jab race against COVID-19 saw mRNA vaccines approved for the first time in history, with vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna rolled out across much of the world.
MRNA vaccines work by introducing a messenger RNA molecule into the body, which causes cells to produce a protein that looks like one of the viral proteins of the virus it is supposed to protect against.
Incredibly, perhaps the biggest vaccine development of 2021 had nothing to do with the coronavirus pandemic.
Scientists celebrated the landmark approval of a vaccine against malaria, a disease that according to the World Health Organization (WHO) killed 627,000 people in 2020 and infected an estimated 241 million people.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the approval was “a historic moment”. The jab is only about 30% effective, but scientists hailed the moment as a “huge step forward”.
Needle-free COVID Jab
Designed to facilitate the administration of COVID-19 vaccines, a needleless inoculation is currently being tested in the UK.
The jab uses a jet of air that pushes the vaccine into the skin – which could offer an alternative for people with needle phobia, the University of Southampton said.
The new coronavirus vaccine uses DIOSvax technology from the University of Cambridge and could be scaled up and manufactured in powder form to boost global vaccination efforts if the trial proves successful.
COVID nasal spray
Another COVID-related innovation being tested is a nasal spray designed to prevent COVID-19 infections.
“In order for the virus to enter the cell, it must undergo certain very specific chemical reactions,” explained Rakesh Uppal, president of Raphael Labs which develops the spray.
“We were able to find a way to manipulate this chemical reaction, and therefore keep the virus out, and that is fundamental for this virus,” he said, adding that it appears to be effective regardless the strain of coronavirus it encounters.
Bo.by incubator for premature babies
The Bo.by device, developed at Kunstuniversitat Linz in Austria, helps premature babies have a meaningful bonding experience with their parents in situations where real contact is not possible.
This could be due to their medical condition, hospital policy, a pandemic, or other issues.
Bo.by is a set of two wirelessly connected devices, one for the parent and the other a baby mattress inside the incubator.
Each device has sensors to collect and send data to the other, sensing touch, breast movement, vibrations, heartbeats, body heat or odor. This means that the parent and the baby can feel indirect contact with each other.
Hands-free shoes are growing in popularity, with more and more companies developing shoes that allow people with certain disabilities – or anyone who does not have their hands free – to put them on without any problems.
In 2021, Nike launched its GO FlyEase trainer, which has a hinge that allows it to open and close, allowing the user to put them on without using their hands.
Wind-powered street lights
With the challenge of meeting the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, our societies must find ways to reduce our emissions in all aspects of life.
A brilliant idea that has been developed this year is a wind-powered street light.
Papilio is a floor lamp with an integrated wind turbine that produces renewable energy and only turns on when needed.
This not only reduces emissions, but also light pollution. It has been tested in many places in Berlin, and its creator claims that it easily produces enough renewable energy to ignite.
Selfie stick camera that fits in your pocket
Travel may be disrupted immediately as the world deals with the Omicron COVID-19 variant, but for those who enjoy taking selfies at home or abroad, the selfie stick has had a modern update this year. .
The IQUI offers 360-degree photos and videos with its four lenses and a stand that lets you take photos from all kinds of positions.
Three of the lenses shoot horizontally and one point upwards, all on a thin 5.5 inch stick.
Mustang Micro guitar amplifier
One problem with the electric guitar is that in most cases a powerful amp must be plugged in to create the required sound.
Now, Fender may have offered a way to carry an amp anywhere you want to play, producing one that could fit in a jacket pocket.
It simply plugs into the guitar and with a pair of headphones you can jam up to 12 amp sounds and 12 effects.