Moonshot thinking aims to achieve the impossible. And in some cases, it does just that. Travelling to the city in a vacuum tube? Popping to the shops in an airship? Replacing meat with air? Here are three innovations that have the potential to make a big impact in the future...and one that might not.
With top speeds of around 50mph, helium airships are plausible alternatives to planes for short-haul journeys. Bedford-based Hybrid Air Vehicles aims to offer routes including Barcelona to Palma de Mallorca and Oslo to Stockholm from 2025. However, they might be more realistic as cargo transporters. Germany’s CargoLifter and Russia’s Aerosmena are among those developing huge airships that can lift up to 600 tons of freight while hovering above the ground or sea, and move it with no need to build ports, airports or railways. They produce far less pollution than planes or even ships. Plus, they don’t get stuck in canals.
The search to replace animal protein is in full swing. “Meatless” burgers are sold in supermarkets, and steaks can be grown in petri dishes. But what if you could take protein straight from the air? Californian company Air Protein says it has rediscovered old Nasa tech and can take carbon dioxide, oxygen and nitrogen from the air, feed them to genetically modified microbes in fermentation vessels that produce a protein, which is turned into a flour that can be turned into “meat” products. Sounds crazy? Barclays and Google don’t think so, and have invested.