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Blog Post 3 November 2020

Five sustainable innovations to keep an eye on

To reach our net zero goals will require a momentous shift in how energy is generated and used. We will need new innovations to improve the efficiency of technologies and reduce our impact on the planet and its resources.

From 3D solar panels to a new system that cleans and reuses water from your washing machine, we take a closer look at five sustainable innovations that have caught our eye in 2020.

3D solar panels

Scientists at the University of York have come up with a new solar panel design that increases their ability to absorb light by 125%.

A study found that designing solar panels in checkerboard lines could lead to the production of thinner, lighter and more flexible solar panels, which could be used to power more homes.

The checkerboard design improved diffraction, increasing the chance of light being absorbed from the sun, which can then be used to generate electricity. The new design could be used to boost light absorption of solar cells in lightweight materials, such as roof tiles, boat sails and camping equipment.

Dr Christian Schuster, University of York’s Department of Physics, said: “In principle, we would deploy ten times more solar power with the same amount of absorber material: ten times thinner solar cells could enable a rapid expansion of photovoltaics, increase solar electricity production, and greatly reduce our carbon footprint.”

Credit: Dr Davide Zecca

An intelligent electric vehicle battery

Slovakian electric vehicle (EV) battery manufacturer InoBat launched the world’s first ‘intelligent’ EV battery in October 2020 by. The new battery has been developed through a combination of artificial intelligence (AI) and high throughout (HTP) technology.

By optimising the battery’s charging and discharging cycles, the new model can increase the range of an EV by up to 20%. It also requires less cobalt to manufacture than traditional EV batteries.

The company is developing an AI-driven battery research centre and production line in Slovakia, which will start to produce the first intelligent batteries in 2021.

Marian Bocek, co-founder and CEO of InoBat, said: “The world’s first intelligent battery marks a huge leap forward in the electrification of transport. At InoBat, we want to fast track innovation to ensure the best batteries for any type of electric vehicle. These batteries will be tested and developed further with scale production starting next year.”

Credit: InoBat

Cutting food waste with invisible peel

Love food, hate waste? We waste an estimated 1.3 billion tonnes of food every year, which is around one third of all the food produced for human consumption. This scale of food waste leads to the destruction of habitats, decreased biodiversity and overuse of land and water.

To address this global problem, Apeel has created a plant-derived invisible ‘peel’ that extends the life of fruits and vegetables by slowing down the rate at which water is lost and oxidation occurs.

The company claims that the extra ‘peel’ it adds to the surface of fruits and vegetables can double to triple the shelf life of many produce types, without the need for refrigeration. The edible wrap also reduces reliance on plastic packaging and the use of preservatives.

Recycling water with Hydraloop

Dutch technology company Hydraloop has developed a water recycling system that cleans and disinfects used bath, shower and washing machine water, which can then be reused to flush toilets, fill pools, water your garden or be reused for your next clothes wash.

The company claims that the product recycles 85% of all domestic water used, helping to reduce household water consumption by almost half (45%).

Hydraloop recycles and filters the used water through a six-step process, which includes sedimentation, flotation, dissolved air flotation, foam fractionation, an aerobic bioreactor and disinfection using ultraviolet (UV) light.

The technology is featured in a recent Netflix documentary, Brave Blue World, narrated by Liam Neeson and featuring actors and activists Matt Damon and Jaden Smith. Filmed across five continents, the documentary paints an optimistic picture of how we are adopting new technologies and innovations to rethink how water is managed.

Credit: Hydraloop

Switching out the silver in solar cells

Backed by Australia’s renewable agency, start-up SunDrive has managed to break through one of the key barriers to the wider adoption of solar cells: the need to use costly silver.

SunDrive’s technology has replaced the use of silver with the more widely available – and cheaper – copper, lowering the cost of next generation solar cells. In October 2020, the company received support to the tune of AUD$3 million from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

The company is also trying to improve efficiencies by simplifying the manufacturing process of solar cells, as well as making a thinner cell that will need less silicon to produce.

The new technology will be used initially for rooftop solar installations, but when it becomes more cost-effective it could be used for larger scale projects.

Last updated: 2 November 2020