When you think about inventions that changed the world for the better, what comes to mind?
Certainly, things like antibiotics, airplanes, cars, petrol, and even concrete have their place. But what about little-known inventions that changed the world? Those unsung heroes we have not heard of but are every bit as important.
Here are four amazing technological little-known inventions that changed the world:
1. Nano-Patches that Detect Disease
Blood tests are used to detect if a person has a particular disease, but these tests can take days, if not months. With blood testing, you also have to test for many different strains of diseases to make sure you have the right one. Nano-patches are a much faster way of detecting disease and could change the way we diagnose in the future.
Nano-patches have minute microscopic needles that capture the proteins in our blood. The patches are then removed and subjected to a special reagent that detects diseases, usually within an hour.
The Nano-patches are based on a similar patch that can deliver vaccines without the need for refrigeration and without injections. This means you don’t need qualified healthcare staff to administer them. A godsend in third world countries.
2. Spray-on skin
Professor Fiona Wood and her scientist colleague Marie Stoner invented an aerosol that sprays on skin cells. This aerosol has helped to save the lives of tens of thousands of victims. All of them suffering from life-threatening burns.
Called ‘spray-on skin’, the pair were exploring the way that tissue engineering (called cultural epithelial autograph or CEA) could help burn’s victims. In 1993, with a Telephon grant, the pair developed a skin culture facility. By taking a small sample of the patient’s own skin they were able to grow sheets of skin cells.
They then changed these sheets into cells. These cells were then put into aerosol form. The spray is used on the patient as a protective shield in areas where the burns were most damaging.
“Combining all of graphene’s amazing properties could create an impact of the scale last seen with the Industrial Revolution.”
Graphene is a material created at the University of Manchester. It is one atom thick and measures one million times smaller than the diameter of a single human hair.
Graphene is stronger than steel yet incredibly lightweight. It is thermally conductive, conducts electricity and is transparent. Graphene has many abilities and uses. Its unique properties mean that it could be an essential part of the 4th Revolution.
Graphene can be used to make incredibly thin and bendy smartphones, filters for water, and build lightweight transportation. The list really is endless.
4. Changing Colour Contact Lenses for Diabetics
Contact lenses that can detect blood sugar without the person having to draw blood? In a word, yes. But I have to say, this uses ground-breaking technology for it to work.
Embedded in hydrogel contact lenses are minuscule nanoparticles. These nanoparticles are able to react with the glucose levels found in our teardrops. When the nanoparticles come into contact with these glucose molecules they cause a chemical reaction. This reaction changes the color of the lenses.
Professor Jin Zhang developed the technology at the University of Western Ontario.
The university said, “There were many other potential applications beyond biomedical devices, including for food packaging.”
Now here are five mundane little-known inventions that changed the world:
1. The Chocolate Bar
Did a person actually invent a bar of chocolate? Evidently so. Up until the 19th century, chocolate was only available to purchase as desserts or drinks. It was also used to cover nuts and candies.
In 1847, Joseph Fry discovered a way of combining cocoa powder, sugar and melted cocoa butter. This could then be poured into a mold and set as chocolate bars. Shortly afterwards the Bristol company Fry & Son began mass-producing the chocolate bar.
In 1849 John Cadbury introduced his version of the chocolate bar.
In the early 20th-century, milk chocolate was invented in Switzerland by Henri Nestle.
2. Effervescent Tablet
Hedy Lamarr is most famously known as an American actress, but she was also a prolific inventor. She helped to invent a device that scrambled radio frequencies. She patented it in the hopes it could be used in WW11. The diagrams in her patent were shown to be precursors to the modern wireless technology we use today.
As well as this she also invented an effervescent tablet. The tablet changed still water into carbonated but people didn’t like the taste. Still, the tablet did work, as did many of Hedy’s other inventions.
3. The Egg Box
This is about as mundane and un-technological and you can get, but can you imagine these days trying to carry around a load of eggs?
The egg box was invented in 1911 by Canadian newspaper editor Joseph Coyle. He handmade it using cardboard and cushioned slots. Later he went on to develop a machine to make them for him.
He invented the egg box to solve an argument between a hotelier and a deliveryman. The hotelier was getting annoyed because of the number of broken eggs in his deliveries. Coyle believed there had to be a better way of delivering them and invented one that is still being used today.
4. Ring-Pull Can
There’s nothing like a hot summer day and swigging back a cool one from the icebox. And now, because of Indiana farm boy Ermal Fraze, every time we snap back a ring-pull on a can of soda, we have him to thank.
Before 1959, you had to use a can opener when it came to opening any kind of can. Fraze thought there had to be a better way. Fraze concentrated in the small rivet that held the lever in the middle at the top of the can. After prescoring a strip around one end of the lever, Fraze engineered the ring-pull so that pressure on the lever would depress the other end along the strip. The lever would punch through the strip and create a hole for the drink to pour through.
We take this simple action for granted these days, but many people struggled with inventing a self-opening can until Fraze came along.
5. Peanut Butter
Can we class peanut butter as one of those inventions that changed the world? Probably not, but it is very popular!
You might be surprised to learn that peanut butter is one the few foods from the Victorian era to survive into our modern times. In 1895, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, of the Kellogg’s cereal fame, created a process to produce peanut butter from raw peanuts. He described it as “a nutritious protein substitute for people who could hardly chew on solid food.”
It was originally meant for patients but gained in popularity across the globe and is now found in 94% of US homes to this day.
If you know of any little-known inventions that changed the world and might be interesting, do let us know!
By Janey D.