Things are not looking good on the global warming front and it’s vitally important that humanity gains control over its carbon emissions. Although there are plenty of people who don’t believe climate change is a real thing, there are even more scientists and governments working to find solutions to this looming planetary crisis.
The good news is that the breakthroughs are coming thick and fast, but the real question is whether they’ll come quickly enough. In this article, we’ve collected five of the most promising green technology innovations so far in 2017.
1. A Gadget that Makes Fuel and Cleans Air
By now it’s a pretty well-known fact that a large part of the problem when it comes to pollution is the burning of fossil fuels. We put it into our cars or power stations, we burn it for power and then pollute the air. We’re in a bit of a bind, because we need the fuel, but we also need to, well, breathe.
A new invention by a team of scientists from the University of Antwerp and KU Leuven may go some way to solving both issues at the same time. This device uses nanotechnology to clean the air with a solar-powered process, the byproduct of which is hydrogen gas. That gas can then be used as fuel. We don’t know yet if it works at industrial scale, but if it does there may be some new Nobel prizes in the mail.
2. Petra Nova Goes Live
Hopefully as a sign of things to come, early in January of 2017 we learned that the world’s largest carbon capture system has gone online. Named Petra Nova this addition to the largest power station in Texas will capture almost all of the carbon dioxide the plant produces, preventing it from entering the atmosphere.
The system captures the carbon dioxide straight from the plant’s exhausts. This captured carbon is then repurposed for use in oil recovery, forming a neat little eco-friendly(-er) system.
Since the captured CO2 does not go into the air and also boosts oil production, this is a solution that’s both profitable and helps curb carbon emissions!
3. Making Baking Soda from CO2
Staying on the topic of carbon capture, a coal plant in India has found another use for all of that captured carbon. They’re turning it into baking soda. Not only that, but their efficient carbon capture system is cheap enough not to require a government subsidy. Like the Petra Nova system it pays for itself. Extra revenue is generated by selling the baking soda byproduct which is used in a bunch of different products. All told, their systems can capture 66 000 tons of carbon each year.
4. Hybrid Electric Jets
High-performance electric cars like those from Tesla are old hat by now, but electric planes are still very new in the minds of the public. There have been some small successes, but a new proposed passenger jet from a company called Zunum may be the first example of a commercial electric plane for public use.
It uses the same principle as electric cars like the BMW i3 Rex where the entire drivetrain is electric, but if the batteries run dry there’s an onboard internal combustion engine that acts as a generator. This is a much more fuel efficient use of gasoline and for short range trips you don’t need to use fossil fuel sources at all.
The people from Zunum are making big claims about the plane’s potential, stating that it will be 75% quieter and save between 40 and 80 percent of airline fuel bills. It certainly deserves to be counted among the top tech gadgets if it ever take flight.
5. A Big Solar Breakthrough
Solar power is always the most promising renewable energy source, but our solar power collection technology has always fallen short of reaching practical efficiency levels. There have been major improvements in devices such as solar panels or storage systems like the Tesla Power Wall, but w aren’t ready to go fully solar yet.
A big 2017 breakthrough by a group of Australian scientists may put big dents in both problems of solar collection AND storage in one go.
What they’ve come up with is a new type of electrode that could potentially increase energy storage capacities by a staggering 3000% and may also make flexible, thin and incredibly efficient solar panels a reality.
The research behind this amazing discovery was inspired by nature in the form of plants. Living plants are of course the masters of converting solar energy and storing it and we’re still learning new secrets about how they do it today.
If this technology pans out the way its creators believe it will, you may one day have a computer that can run from solar sources permanently. In fact, it could be the key to total grid independence, so here’s hoping it all works out!
Until we figure out a way to leave Earth and find a newer, fresher home, this is the only planet we’ve got. Once the environment is gone then so are we, so our choice seems pretty simple.
While the struggle to preserve our environment continues from one year to the next, it’s still heartening to read about new developments such as these. If our best and brightest people can keep working on these problems we might yet save the day and turn the problem around.
Of course, we as individuals can do our part too! There are many ways you can save energy and therefore spare the Earth from accommodating even more carbon. You can start by reading our fabulous article on green computing, which will show you how the handling of computer technology can change to benefit the environment.
Kostas Chiotis is a technology geek and avid blogger. You can read his writing at Techisignals.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter