Scientific achievements of 2021
December 31, 2021 - This year’s top science stories are packed with inspiring advances from breath sensors that can diagnose disease to a NASA mission to practice protecting our planet.
Today the world uses more than 110 million tonnes of nitrogen fertilizer to enhance crop production annually. What if food could be made from thin air? Researchers are working to capture and “fix” nitrogen, carbon, and sulphur using chemosynthesis in one approach.
Testing for a disease could be as simple for patients as exhaling. New breath sensors can diagnose diseases by sampling the concentrations of the more than 800 compounds contained in human breath. For instance, elevated amounts of acetone in human breath indicate diabetes mellitus. The sensors look for changes in electrical resistance as breath compounds flow over a metal-oxide-semiconductor. Algorithms then analyze the sensor data.
Scientists at the Centre for Palaeogenetics in Stockholm have extracted DNA from mammoth remains thought to be 1.2 million years old, yielding the oldest complete genome known to date.
In October, U.S. scientists David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian won the Nobel Medicine Prize for discoveries on receptors for temperature and touch. The duo’s research, conducted independently, is being used to develop treatments for a wide range of diseases and conditions, including chronic pain.