Business Technology


8 Star Trek technologies that are becoming reality

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5. Sickbay’s biobed

Who is involved: University of LeicesterLeicester Royal Infirmary, NASA

Star Trek: The patient would lie on the bed and a screen would then show every possible problem in the patient’s body. The biobed was fitted with sensor clusters which would give a detailed analysis of the patient’s health.

Reality: Professors Paul Monks, Mark Sims and Tim Coats have transformed NASA’s technology to detect life on Mars into a real-life version of Dr. Leonard H. McCoy’s diagnostic bed. Although this modern Star Trek tech has yet to incorporate “medical scanners”, it is able to run non-invasive tests that can detect diseases and conditions ranging from diabetes to cancer – automatically reading respiration, oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the blood and ultra-sound readings of the heart. The £1m plus disease detection facility is being tested in Leicester Royal Infirmary’s A&E department.

"beamed up"

6. Teleporter

Who is involved: University of ViennaNiels Bohr Institute 

Star Trek: Transporters convert a person or object into an energy pattern, then “beam” it to a target, where it is reconstructed.

Reality: Teleportation is possible – for sub-atomic particles that is. By taking advantage of a phenomenon called “quantum entanglement”, the Niels Bohr Institute succeeded in teleporting light and gas atoms – pretty neat given teleporters in Star Trek used the exact same method. Taking it one step further, Austrian scientists were able to destroy billions of photons and recreate them elsewhere as information, sent over a record distance of 89 miles. Since then, the experiment has been repeated successfully time after time. Although we are far from human body transport, we’ve made a step in the right direction, especially given that Star Trek’s own transporter was far from perfect.

Image source

7. The tractor beam

Who is involved: St Andrews UniversityInstitute of Scientific Instruments

Star Trek: The tractor beam is a form of graviton beam used by starships to control the movement of external objects. 

Reality: A team of scientists from Scotland and the Czech Republic have found a way to generate an optical filed that reverses radiation pressure of light. In essence, a real-life miniature version of the “tractor beam” – which can draw objects towards the light source – has successfully been created. So all we need to do now is develop a large scale version and attach it to a starship.


8. Transparent Aluminium (Armor)

Who is involved: Surment Corporation, Air Force, Oxford

Star Trek: In the series, transparent aluminum is used in various fittings in starships, including exterior ship portals and windows.

Reality: The Surment Corporation in Massachusetts now manufactures ALON, a material similar to transparent aluminium. Scientists developed a transparent aluminium-based ceramic that is almost as strong. Four times harder than fused silica glass and 85 per cent as hard as sapphire, it has been used in armoured windows and lenses for battlefield optics. The Air Force has also tested the material with the hope of replacing windowsa with a lighter, yet stronger, bulletproof window. Oxford scientists, however, have recently created a transparent form of aluminium by bombarding the metal with a powerful soft X-ray laser.

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