From time to time, we like to take a look at some of the green technological breakthroughs being touted for possible roles in our sustainable future.
Here are five of our recent favourites.
The ability to charge electric vehicles (EVs) with increasing speed is one of the key factors in the market’s continued growth. So what’s the solution? Asphalt, suggest scientists at Rice University. The use of the material, more often seen on roads and walkways, for anodes, has seen large amounts of energy stored with charge times of just five minutes. This could well promise a lot more than a few references in scientific journals.
Another crucial element in longer EV ranges is what material vehicles are made out of. There will be a move towards increasingly lightweight construction – but durability and safety remain, of course, crucial. The latest development in this area is to explore materials of wood origin; cellulose nanofibres which can be combined with plastic to make a material which researchers at Kyoto University claim is five times stronger than steel.
A uniquely-shaped ‘pod’ turbine could well offer an option for tapping the kinetic energy of rivers and streams. Sitting on the surface of the water, the vertical-axis turbine is being trialled with a South Carolina utility company in early 2018. The engineers behind the concept say it’s a less environmentally-intrusive hydro power option than stationary dams. Hydro power potential is huge, so this is an interesting story to follow.
A different sort of kinetic energy – that of the human step – can be tapped with the new electric footwear called SmartBoots. It’s being offered as a power solution for everyone from industrial workers to people looking to charge their phones and gadgets in developing countries with poor grid access. Perhaps the boots will even become a future fashion statement?
For those interested in a futuristic society where even our clothes generate electricity, a new solar thermoelectric generator may be of interest, which uses temperature differences to produce power. These can be attached to fabric, windows and walls. Such devices have been around for a while, but the difference here is that the latest breakthrough, led by Professor Kyoung Jin Choi, means that electricity can be generated from larger temperature differences than previously possible.