11/26/2012 09:52 EST

World's Top Innovators: The People Behind Tesla Motors, 3D Printing And Much More

Tesla CEO Elon Musk walks past the Tesla Model S after a news conference at the Tesla factory in Fremont, Calif., Friday, June 22, 2012. The first Model S sedan car will be rolling off the assembly line on Friday. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

Space vacations, 3D printers, electricity-generating clothes and skyscrapers that can be built in just over two weeks may all sound far-fetched, but they’re getting closer and closer to coming to fruition thanks to a handful of the world’s top innovators.

That means you’ll soon be in luck if you want to print out chess pieces at home, charge your iPod in your shirt pocket or get away from the hustle and bustle of Earth. We’ve compiled a list of the top four innovators who are working towards changing the world as you know it.

Companies And People Whose Innovations Just Might Change The World. Slideshow text follows afterwards for mobile readers.

Photo gallery Companies And People Whose Innovations Just Might Change The World See Gallery

Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX and CEO of Tesla Motors

When Musk says he plans to retire on Mars, he’s not kidding. The serial innovator (he also co-founded PayPal) believes we’re moving towards becoming a multi-planetary species. His company, SpaceX, has already sent the first private spacecraft to the International Space Station, so his prediction may not be beyond the realm of possibility. Meanwhile, Tesla Motors continues to be a leading innovator when it comes to luxury electric cars. No wonder Iron Man director Jon Favreau and actor Robert Downey Jr. say Musk inspired their version of brilliant billionaire Tony Stark.


Break a coffee cup? No problem, you can print another one! That’s right, thanks to 3D desktop printers like MakerBot’s Replicator 2 model, you can print out small items ranging from chess pieces to skull-shaped PEZ dispensers to model airplanes. The New York-based company has sold over 13,000 MakerBot Desktop 3D Printers since its inception in 2009, and that number is certain to skyrocket as the company pushes 3D printing further towards the mainstream.

David Carroll,Physicist At Wake Forest University

Your clothes may soon be able to do a lot more than just make fashion statements. Carroll and his team of fellow physicists have developed a fabric that generates electricity from the temperature differences across the clothing’s span. (Different parts of a shirt, for instance, can be as much as 10 degrees apart, temperature-wise.) So, if you keep your iPod in your pocket, it’ll never die on you again!

Broad Sustainable Building

Skyscrapers take years to build, right? Well, not if Hunan, China-based Broad Sustainable Building is involved. The company has pioneered a new construction method that enables it to assemble 30-story buildings in just 15 days. The speedy strategy entails pre-installing fixtures such as pipes and ducts through each floor module at the factory, allowing the company to erect the actual building in record time.