Over the last 20 years there have been 1.2 million granted patents and published patent applications on the clean tech, also known as green tech, patenting site CleanTech PatentEdge. This means a huge amount of innovation in technologies that could help us tackle climate change. In reality, though, most of these ideas may never see the light of day and cannot be practically produced on a mass scale. So we’re left with the few, rare ideas that have a real shot at impacting our lives and climate problem. In this article, we’ll look at five technologies that are worth following.
Transparent solar cells
Imagine a phone or building or car being able to harness energy through its glass. The “glass” which is actually more of a film, selectively captures and converts ultraviolet and near-infrared light into electricity to power a mobile device and extend its battery life. The technology is not yet ready to take over from batteries, but it could significantly raise the time between charges.
Here are some sobering facts about batteries and recycling: 22,000 tons of household batteries end up in landfills every year, according to Recycle More. And recycling rates are at around 10 percent. We really need batteries that are more efficient, biodegradable, or at least made of sustainable materials.
Enter “aerogel,” “a squishy wood-based foam substance” that was recently developed into a battery by American and Swede scientists. Mostly made from pulp, the battery is lightweight, elastic and high-capacity.
While this is an exciting development, these technologies are unlikely to transform the home battery market just yet. Both are still early stage (at least 5-10 years away from commercial market) and still expensive to produce on a mass scale.
In the meantime, we have Energizer’s EcoAdvantage, introduced into the market in February. Four percent of the battery is made from recycled parts but its maker aims to increase this number to 40 percent by 2025.
Induction charging cars
Google’s driverless cars and Elon Musk’s Tesla have gotten all the attention, leaving out the slightly important matter of charging said cars. What technologies are in development to make this more sustainable? If plugging in your electric vehicle (EV) every evening doesn’t sound sexy, we understand. Imagine an EV that charges while it runs. Qualcomm Halo, along with BMW and Volkswagen, have been busy exploring the development of wireless electric vehicle charging (WEVC).
Hydrogen fuel cells
If only we could find a suitable replacement for oil to power our automobiles…Actually, Toyota and Hyundai are turning the leaf with commercial releases of hydrogen-fuelled cars. Intelligent Energy is one of the companies behind the recent advance in hydrogen fuel cells. CEO Henri Winand has declared that “the hydrogen age has arrived” and it isn’t just cars where he plans to put his cells.
Quoted in the Guardian he’s said,
“We are deploying fuel cells to replace small diesel back-up generators in India on a landmark scale…and the rollout of our charger Upp in Apple stores in the UK brings us a step closer to consumer electronics.”
When contemplating a new technology to solve an important problem, like climate change. Economics are always fundamental. The technology must be affordable or it won’t fly even if we’re choking in smog. Fortunately, some of the technology we need is becoming accessible and practical. Just look at the increase in solar panel installation in the last year. What about a technology for the domestic boiler? British company Flow claims to have heeded the call with the launch this year of a domestic gas boiler that generates electricity while it heats the home. Flow also claims that it also reduces emissions by 20 percent.