Grand Engineering Challenges for the 21st Century

A new report highlights the world's most acute needs

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Solúcar's PS10 power plant outside Seville, Spainafloresm

A panel convened by the National Academy of Engineering announced today a list of the most important projects in the world—at least, what would be, were we to figure out how to build them. The 14 priorities range from economical solar power—we only need to harness 1/10,000th of the sunlight that hits Earth to satisfy the world's energy needs—to reverse-engineering the brain and universal access to clean water (see the full list after the break). They're also introducing a slick new website to solicit public opinion. What do you think is the most important engineering challenge for the century to come?

According to the National Academy of Engineering, the world's greatest technological research challenges are:

  • Make solar energy economical
  • Provide energy from fusion
  • Develop carbon sequestration methods
  • Manage the nitrogen cycle
  • Provide access to clean water
  • Restore and improve urban infrastructure
  • Advance health informatics
  • Engineer better medicines
  • Reverse-engineer the brain
  • Prevent nuclear terror
  • Secure cyberspace
  • Enhance virtual reality
  • Advance personalized learning
  • Engineer the tools of scientific discovery

Pretty grand wish list. Which of these is most important, and did they leave anything off? Let us know in the comments below.

For more reports from the annual AAAS conference, click here.