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Knight Optical Presents: The Top 10 Technologically Advanced Sectors of 2021

17th Mar 2022

If you’re an avid follower of our blogs, you’ll know that we’re passionate about technologies (both current and old), pioneering, unique systems and remarkable, new methods of doing things. As we reach the end of quarter one for 2022, we look back on the last year and highlight some of the most exciting technologies of 2021.

Here at Knight Optical, our fields of interest and connections with sectors are vast and diverse. As such, we’ve categorised one key project from last year into each key industry in which we operate.

1 The Laser Sector

Only last month, we were waxing lyrical about the innovations emerging from the laser industry in our blog ‘What Optical Components Are Used for Lasers?’, which can be read here.

For 2021, one of our top picks aligns with Laser Focus World’s in a scheme that proves size isn’t everything. As Laser Focus World explains in its article, deep-UV continuous-wave (CW) lasers are typically large and cumbersome (the monthly title compares them to the size of a shoebox). Last year, one Finnish company, UVC Photonics, sought to change that with a compact CW laser measuring 22 × 24 × 71mm.

Learn more about this project here.

2 The Medical Field

The medical sector boasts an exceptionally high output of discoveries that increase year on year. With so many life-threatening diseases, ailments and, in recent years, a pandemic to tackle, it’s no wonder the MedTech industry is such a fast-moving, ever-evolving branch of the industry. As well as prevention and remedies, many of these devices seek to diagnose illnesses too, which, in stretched areas, such as the UK’s NHS service, could prove exceedingly beneficial for analysing patients quickly and efficiently.

One model of a rapid identification system that emerged due to the coronavirus pandemic is Breathonix’s breath test system. The device really took off in 2021 when it hit the headlines as a new, non-invasive, and affordable way of mass screening for the ubiquitous COVID-19 virus. What’s more, in May 2021, the 60-second test received approval from The Health Sciences Authority of Singapore as the country tackled a surge in cases at the time.

Learn more about the reimagined diagnosis test here.

3 University & Research Institutes

Of course, many MedTech devices (like Breathonix’s) wouldn’t be possible without the extensive research that authenticates them. And, as cancer is one of the leading causes of death throughout the world, this, all too often terminal, disease is one of the main drivers for ongoing investigation.

In December last year, The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the USA-based research university, revealed its top research stories of 2021, and our pick for this category came from this list. Back in October, the team at MIT demonstrated a strategy that stimulates the immune system to destroy cancer cells. The research project involved “removing tumour cells from the body, treating them with chemotherapy drugs, and then placing them back in the tumour”. As the institute explains: “When delivered along with drugs that activate T cells, these injured cancer cells appear to act as a distress signal that spurs the T cells into action.”

Learn more about this project here.

4 Electronics & Electro optics

In November 2021, the Caltech Center for Sensing to Intelligence (S2I) and Rockley Photonics, a photonics-based health monitoring and communications solutions company, came together to announce another collaboration that’s set to push the boundaries of sensing, imaging, and AI. Although the choice for this category is simply an announcement, there have been previous notable partnerships between the two organisations over the years. This undertaking will receive $1.5m in research grants over the next three years to jumpstart efforts to combine sensors with artificial intelligence.

Find out more about this project here.

5 Biotechnology 

Considering the universal events of 2021, it’s no surprise that many of our decisions relate to health and medical projects. That said, for this category, surprisingly our nomination isn’t associated with the all-consuming coronavirus, and, in a somewhat breach of specified timescale, the research-based project took place one week into 2022. Nevertheless, given the recent unfortunate update on the undertaking, we’re looping the project into this list.

The news story we’re indicating is the first pig-to-human heart transplant. In January this year, the genetically modified heart was transplanted into a 57-year-old heart disease patient at the University of Maryland Medical Center, Baltimore. Whilst the transplant was certainly ground-breaking; sadly, it’s recently been announced that the patient passed away two months after the surgery.

You can learn more about this project here.

6 The Engineering & Manufacturing Industries

From human-like android nurses that offer emotional support for isolating COVID-19 patients from Hanson Robotics to arty robotic arm tattoo artists, there’s much to choose from in the worlds of engineering and manufacturing. Still, last year’s video from Boston Dynamics that showcased its nimble somersaulting, leaping, backflipping next-generation Atlas robots really demonstrated just how far along advancements in machinery have really come (not pictured).

Find out more about the athletic robots and watch the video here.

7 The Oil & Gas Sphere

Following on from our sixth division, there’s no single project we’ve picked for the oil and gas sector. Given the peril associated with this field, we’ve opted for the enhanced adoption of autonomous technology that leaders in the industry embraced last year. As explained in Offshore magazine back in summer 2021: “Autonomous robots are being used topsides to read gauges, detect leaks, scan the horizon, take video and audio recordings, and identify anomalies.” The article goes on to demonstrate robotic examples such as Boston Dynamics’ quadruped robotic ‘dog’, named Spot, and ANYbotics’ ANYmal.

Learn more about how the sector welcomed autonomy in 2021 by clicking here.

8 Defence & Aerospace Organisations

With such a wide-ranging assortment of brand-new projects and milestones in this sector (and, for us as a company, with such an extensive list of inspiring manufacturers and engineers in the defence and aerospace industries), there were many motivating projects emitted from this area in 2021.

Our pick comes from a UK-based aerospace company, Pulsar Fusion, in an assignment that took place in Switzerland’s Gstaad. Towards the end of 2021, Pulsar Fusion demonstrated one of the space sector’s cleanest, greenest rocket demonstrations, the Mach-7,  which comprises “a ‘non-toxic hybrid engine that combusts nitrous oxide (N2O) oxidiser and high-density polyethylene (HDPE) fuel and oxygen”. As Electronic Specifier explained: “The HDPE can be obtained from recycled plastic, and the two fuels burn together to produce a non-toxic plume.”

Learn more about this green rocket engine here

9 Entertainment & Design 

As well as scientific and technological applications, our optics are also employed for many entertainment and design purposes. Demonstrating more of an artistic take on optics and LED lighting, our pick for this category dates to early 2021 in the form of a design installation in a Dutch field. In January, Studio Roosegaarde unveiled ‘Grow’, a 20,000m2 light installation that was designed to highlight the beauty of agriculture and improve crop growth. Using red, blue, and ultraviolet (UV) lights, the installation served as an example of light recipes to increase crop growth.

Read all about this aesthetically-spectacular, pioneering project here.

10 Infrastructure & Transportation 

Self-driving cars are nothing new, however, the technology behind them is relentlessly progressing to meet a wide range of needs as the world continues to implement this technology. In late 2021, researchers revealed a venture that pushed the boundaries of driverless cars and common-sense reasoning. The team from Örebro University in Sweden commenced the study for the AI to understand the world from a more human

perspective. Engineering & Technology offers one example of this “common-sense reasoning” as: “the ability to recognise that a cyclist that is hidden behind a car for a few seconds still exists until it reappears”.

Read more on the system here.

Why Choose Knight Optical for your Application? 

Discerning customers rely on Knight Optical not only for the premium quality of our output and in-house state-of-the-art Metrology Laboratory and QA Department‘s capabilities but because – as well as a range of Stock Optics (available for next-day dispatch) – we also offer our optics as Custom-Made Components.

Last year, we celebrated 30 years in business. With over three decades’ experience under our belt and a whole host of long-standing world-renowned customers on our books, we are proud to have worked on some of the most ground-breaking innovations.

If you are looking for premium-quality, bespoke optical components, please do not hesitate to get in touch with a member of the Technical Sales Team today.

 Europe, UK, Asia & RoW:

[email protected]

+44 (0)1622 859444

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[email protected]

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