The European Patent Office (EPO) recently announced its annual shortlist for its European Inventor Awards, which honors a range of scientists across industries. Much like last year, it’s packed with some inventions that could be truly groundbreaking.
The twelve finalists are grouped into four categories, including one for non-European inventors. Three additional inventors also are up for a lifetime achievement award. One winner will be selected from each category, and then the public can vote on the overall winner, with the awards taking place June 9 in Lisbon.
Not all of these fantastical inventions end up as life-changing technology, and some of them may prove too good to be true. Last year’s shortlist included Elizabeth Holmes, the CEO of Theranos—the diagnostics company that claims to be able to test for a range of ailments from a single drop of blood. Holmes’ company is now under criminal investigation, and many wonder if her proprietary technologyeven works as she says it does. So take these inventions’ potential with a grain of salt. Or a drop of blood.
Here’s the EPO’s shortlist, broken out by category:
Italian food scientists Virna Cerne and Ombretta Polenghi have created a method for creating, as the EPO calls them, “gluten-like proteins” out of corn. Their proteins can be used in baked goods that once baked have the taste and mouthfeel of being made from wheat, the EPO says, unlike many gluten-free substitutes on the market. Perhaps soon, people with celiac disease or gluten intolerances will be able to chow down on cookies, cakes, and breads that won’t hurt them.
Secure smartcard encryption
A team of French and Belgian engineers, led by Joan Daemen andPierre-Yvan Liardet,created a way to protect against fraud that could happen on credit cards with built-in chips, or smart cards. According to the EPO, a loophole existed in the programming of many smart cards that could have caused fraud for millions of bank customers and mobile phone owners across the world, and Daemen and Liardet’s programs help mitigate those loopholes.
Magnetic Particle Imaging
A German team from Philips, lead by Bernhard Gleich and Jürgen Weizenecker,created a magnetic imaging tool that allows doctors to see inside the human body in what the EPO calls “unprecedented detail.” The device, which has been in clinical trials since 2014, allows doctors detailed, real-time views of soft tissues, tumors, coronary arteries, and other parts of the body, beyond what might be picked up on a regular MRI machine.
Small and medium-sized enterprises
Reducing emissions with ammonia
A Danish team, consisting of Tue Johannessen, Ulrich Quaade, Claus Hviid Christensen and Jens Kehlet Nørskov, created a company called Amminex. Their main product: A 100-gram (3.5 oz.) block of ammonia salt that can safely be handled, incorporated into exhaust filters, and be used remove nitrogen oxides from diesel engine emissions.
Quick diagnostic kits for the developing world
Helen Lee, a researcher from Cambridge University, created simple diagnostic kits that let doctors test people for a range of ailments, including HIV, Hepatitis B and chlamydia. According to the EPO, Lee’s company, Diagnostics for the Real World, already has clients around the world. The kits have tested over 40,000 people for HIV, and because they don’t require samples to be sent back to a central lab, Lee’s technologies can be deployed to just about any country.
Noninvasive ultrasound to detect brain injuries
Lithuanian scientist Arminas Ragauskas created a device that helps doctors determine whether someone might have serious brain injuries, or tumors on their central nervous system. Previous methods involved drilling a hole into the patient’s skull. Ragauskas’ method involves placing sensors over their eyes, and using ultrasound and the Doppler Effect to measure brain pressure without having to drill holes in anyone.
Treatment for Parkinson’s Disease
According to the EPO, the French neuroscientist and physicist Alim-Louis Benabid combined his two disciplines to develop a revolutionary treatment for Parkinson’s, which has already been used on 150,000 patients worldwide. The treatment involves placing a small electrode under the skin, above the brain, then using high-frequency electric pulses to stimulate the brain and treat the muscle tremors associated with Parkinson’s, according to Columbia University Medical Center.