Sustainable technologies are not science fiction anymore.
Technology brings society a host of truly marvelous inventions. Planes, trains and automobiles are all byproducts of a society that values time, efficiency and progress. But often times, in the pursuit of efficiency, sustainability and ecology falls by the wayside. For over a hundred years, we ran on a coal-powered economy, then an oil powered economy. Now, it seems, there’s another shift in the wind – an economy and power grid that is sustained by environmentally friendly renewables. This change isn’t just happening at your local utility. It’s a grass-roots movement happening across almost every sector of the economy, and new technology is making it happen. Just check out how the world is changing with these 6 fascinating technologies. Who knows? Maybe you already have some of these technologies in your home or workplace right now.
Living buildings are a new classification of buildings that are comprised of both biological materials and smart electronics. Smart buildings typically benefit the environment by being closer to carbon neutral, employing high-tech electronics that closely monitor energy usage and waste, and work to reduce and cut down on carbon footprints wherever possible. Buildings like the Vancouver convention center often classify themselves as being “alive” due to the highly efficient nature of the building as well as having a bio-roof, which grows a variety of plantlife and feeds oxygen back into the atmosphere, while simultaneously processing CO2 emissions. While the use of technology to perfectly regulate these living buildings is new, having buildings a little closer to nature is a near prehistoric concept. Building homes into nature as opposed to outside of it, is something all of our ancestors did. It’s nice to see that as a society, we’re at least making an attempt to live closer to the Earth, without robbing it of all its inherent value.
Solar Roadways are a cool concept that was initially the target of a IndieGoGo campaign several years back. The basic concept of the Solar Roadways project was to replace roads with millions of glass plated solar cells. These cells would turn every major roadway in the country into a massive solar network that could feed energy back into the power grid. Additionally, all these cells would be modular and easily replaceable, making roadwork on them quick and easy. They would also be able to do all sorts of cool “smart” functions, such as illuminating dark roads instead of using street lights and sending drivers advance warnings of accidents or wildlife down the road. It’s a cool concept still in the prototype phases, but the idea could absolutely revolutionize the way we drive.
Electric & Hydrogen Vehicles
Speaking of driving, the Green Driving Revolution is almost here. We’ve had hybrid cars for years, with the Toyota Prius being the first EV/Hybrid car to hit the market in the Americas. Following that, we had fully electric cars like the Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Volt. But it is designer car company Tesla that’s changing the game, with a fully electric consumer car slated for release in 2017 at a reasonable price tag and unprecedented range on a single charge. Toyota is following suit in a different direction, investing in the power of hydrogen, which only emits water vapor when burned. Both technologies represent an awesome shift away from traditional combustibles towards a world that’s a little greener and cleaner.
Solar Towers & Molten Salt Turbines
Solar Farms are nothing new. But they are changing, and for the better. Instead of rows of solar panels that collect and convert energy, we now have giant mirror fields that harness the heat and radiance of the sun. There are two ways this system works. The most common is where the solar reflectors focus the heat of the sun onto a system of water-pipes, which is heated and then funneled through a turbine to create steam energy. A newer technique focuses the rays of the sun onto a central spire, which heats up to over a thousand degrees, boiling water and turning a steam turbine. The newest advances include a “molten salt” reactor, which uses the sun’s rays to super-heat a salt-based mixture inside the reactor to over a thousand degrees. The molten salt inside the reactor heats water using the intense reflected rays of the sun, which spins a turbine and creates energy. And because the molten salt stays hot for up to ten hours past peak period, it can be heated, transferred into tanks, and used to continue creating steam power long after the sun goes down. It’s just another cool way we’re using the near unlimited power of the sun to power on our homes and cities.
One of the hardest things about getting more green into our lives is how much space it takes up. Some places just don’t have the space for a traditional park or even a garden. Well that’s changing. Vertical gardens and arcologies are popping up in cities across the US. Sometimes they are built from scratch, while other times they are built from repurposed or abandoned parking garages. Using a combination of natural light and UV light, we can build vertical farms for food, small trees and create microhabitats for local fauna. It’s a great way to bring the great outdoors to the middle of urban centers where people are hungry for a taste of nature, or maybe just for the taste of a real, fresh apple.
Up until now, the big blockade in front of Solar Energy has been “how do you get power when it’s dark?” Home Batteries would solve this issue. We’ve always been able to get large capacitors to perform a slow charge and a rapid discharge – but this is unsuitable for a home environment, which needs a smaller battery and a slow discharge. Once again, Tesla has paved the way for the next generation, creating a battery solution that discharges slowly and can be charged off as few as one solar panels. This is a game changer for houses across the world which don’t have access to an electrical grid. But more than that, it offers more developed and technologically advanced nations a greener alternative to what we have now.
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