Meet the inventors turning science fiction into science fact

Meet the inventors turning science fiction into science fact

Another winner, Prof Graham Reed, of the Optoelectronics Research Centre in the University of Southampton, is also in the super-computing field.

He studies silicon photonics, which transform data into rays of light, saving energy and transferring huge volumes of information faster than has been possible previously. “Google could save millions,” he said.

“The world will be unrecognisable if we perfect this. Internet traffic is rising 60pc each year and it is unsustainable because of the energy that’s required. It takes a kilojoule to make a single Google search. We cannot go on using this much energy.”

The technology also promises to connect “every appliance in your house” via fibre optics. Computing giants Intel and IBM want to use it to connect hundreds of microprocessors together to create a new breed of super computer.

Meanwhile, Dr Pantelis Georgiou, an electronic engineer, is on the verge of tackling diabetes with the world’s first artificial pancreas.

“I invented a very small microchip, just 5mm by 5mm, which replicates the way the physiognomy of the pancreas works,” he said. “It will revolutionise the treatment of diabetes in this country.”

His invention, which won him an IET medal, automatically regulates the supply of insulin for diabetes type 1 sufferers, reducing the probability of developing complications including blindness, heart disease and brain damage by 70pc. It is being used in clinical trials.

The technology could take considerable strain off NHS resources in this area. The gadget was developed using a “bio-inspired” methodology, Dr Georgiou said. “We look at the way the body works and then we replicate it. Our bodies have evolved over millions of years to do what they need to do very efficiently with low power resources. We are already optimised – I have built my system on the same lines.”

His words suitably echo Faraday’s: “Nothing is too wonderful to be true, if it be consistent with the laws of nature.”

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