Hi everyone, it’s Tech Thursday again!

 

Today I will talk about Kinetic Tile Technology.

 

Kinetic floor tiles allow us to convert our steps into electricity! So how does this work? If you were thinking magic, you were wrong. Kinetic tiles work because certain materials will generate an electrical current when they are placed under mechanical stress by, in this case, being stepped on. This is called the piezoelectric effect!

 

Check out this video to see more on how it works: Youtube

 

Pavegen is a British company that has been working on this technology since 2008 and their tiles are able to generate an average of 5 Watts per step. To put this in perspective, that is enough energy to light an LED streetlight for ~30 seconds! Pavegen has used the technology to light up a football field in Brazil and Nigeria, so if you were wondering when we can see this technology being put to use, it already is! 

 

Let’s talk about the practical uses. Kinetic tiles can’t be used on a grand scale like other renewable energy sources such as wind and solar because we can’t realistically make all floors kinetic in the hopes of generating as much energy as possible. However, what IS realistic, is implementing kinetic tiles in strategic, high-traffic positions to power street lights, malls, sport fields, etc. The cost of kinetic tiles by Pavegen is also not low enough for personal use, meaning installing kinetic tiles in your home will cost more than it’s worth. Currently, the cost of covering an average kitchen in the tiles would be around 6000 pounds. It is also important to mention that the tiles have a lifespan of 5 years. The good news is that the costs are rapidly dropping! A decade ago, covering the same kitchen would have cost close to 130,000 pounds!

 

If you think kinetic tiles could do with an upgrade before you’d think about getting them, you’re not alone! The future of renewable energy will consist of drawing from multiple sources at once, maximising energy production. The tech is still evolving, and will continue to do so for a long time. So what would that look like? Imagine a floor tile that harnesses the kinetic energy from your step as well as the solar energy from the sun (at the same time) to power your kitchen, your streetlights, and your city. 

 

Thanks again for taking the time to read, have a great week.

-Stephen

 

Some Links

2018 World Cup: which player would have produced the most electricity?

The Best New Green Energy Tech Could Be Right Underfoot

Energy Harvesting: Pavegen and the Rise of Kinetic Tile Tech

Happy Tech Thursday, everyone!

 

Today’s I will talk to you about turning CO2 into rock.

 

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) has been around for 50 years but despite being around for that long, it hasn’t been widely used because there aren’t a lot of techniques that are both efficient and cost-effective. Thankfully, this is all changing!

 

The CarbFix2 project is funded by the EU and could change the CCS game. CarbFix2 is an improvement over its predecessor, CarbFix, which was on the expensive side of things. So what exactly does CarbFix2 do? It fixes carbon into rocks! Why? Because this is a safe and effective way of taking the carbon dioxide which we are producing, and storing it in underground rocks. 

 

This is how it works: CarbFix2 takes the CO2 produced by power plants and liquifies it into condensation. This condensated CO2 is then dissolved in water, which is pretty much the same way carbonated water is made. This CO2 rich water is then pressurized and injected into basalt rocks. A chemical reaction takes place between the water and the rocks and the CO2 solidifies, trapping 95% of it within 2 years. This method was first used to lower the CO2 production of a power plant in Iceland, successfully trapping one third of their total output (about 12 tons)!

 

Unfortunately, CCS methods do have risks. The gas can leak back into the atmosphere or into fresh-water aquifers, which are underground pools of fresh-water. Fortunately, the CarbFix2 method is thought to be safer than conventional CCS methods because the CO2 mineralises rapidly (2 years is quite fast considering that naturally, this process could take thousands of years). 

 

So what makes this such a great project? The switch to renewable energy is not a fast one and we will never completely be a zero-emission planet. BUT, methods like CarbFix2 allow us to mitigate the CO2 that we are inevitably producing and permanently mineralising it underground. This has the potential to drastically lower our CO2 output. When can we expect to see more of CarbFix2? It is an EU-funded project, which means that it might be used in Europe a lot more than in other continents but the answer is: soon. CarbFix (the first) ran from 2011 to 2014, so the tech is recent and we will see it being used more widely in the next ten years! 

 

Thank you for reading and see you next week!

 

Have a wonderful Thursday!

-Stephen

Carved in stone? Turning CO2 into rock, for good

Turning Carbon Emission Into Solid Rock

Scientists Are Trapping CO2 And Turning It Into Stone

Hi everyone, welcome to another Green Tech Thursday.

 

Today’s topic is 3-D hierarchically porous nanostructured catalysts.

 

Our fanciest title so far! To simplify that a little bit, today we will learn about a catalyst that converts CO2 (carbon dioxide) to CO (carbon monoxide). Carbon dioxide levels have skyrocketed after the industrial revolution and have contributed to a range of problems such as air pollution and climate change. Because we are still quite dependent on burning fossil fuels, CO2 levels will continue to rise, forcing us to find ways to reduce and convert the CO2 we produce into less harmful substances, in this case that substance is carbon monoxide and the process is electrochemical conversion. 

 

The process of converting CO2 to CO is not new but there has been a massive leap in increasing the effectiveness by redesigning the structure of the catalyst. To give some backstory, gold has been the go-to substance used for CO2 conversion but it is quite rare, making mass production of these catalysts a bit difficult. To overcome this obstacle, researchers have looked into using nanostructures to make the process as effective as possible but they quickly realised that CO bubbles were clogging the pores in the catalyst, decreasing the conversion rate by quite a bit.

 

Fortunately, this problem has been solved with a new, 3-D hierarchically porous nanostructured catalyst design! The title makes more sense now doesn’t it 😉? This new catalyst is 3.96 times more effective than other designs (that is amazing!) and can be applied to a whole range of green tech that utilizes electrocatalysts. How did they solve this problem? They implemented two different sizes of pores, large ones and small ones. This way, the CO bubbles won’t clog the passageways and the catalyst can be used for longer and with greater efficiency!

 

When can we see these new catalysts being used? It’s hard to give an exact date but it was developed on March 4th of 2020 which makes me think that it can be put to use in the next few years.

 

Thanks for reading and see you next week!

 

Have a wonderful Thursday!

-Stephen

 

Some Links

3-D hierarchically porous nanostructured catalyst helps efficiently reduce carbon dioxide

 

Hi everyone, welcome back to another Green Tech Thursday!

 

Today we are learning about Graphene.

 

First things first, what is graphene? Graphene is a form of carbon that is one atom thick. Yes, you heard that right. One. Single. Atom. Thick. To put that into perspective, that is 1 million times thinner than a human hair! Graphene is also very dense, yet extremely light, it is a very impressive material. 

 

The practical applications of graphene are very diverse and very good for our future. Lately, researchers have created a 30-nanometre (nm) thick film of graphene which makes use of thermophotovoltaics to turn heat (generated by the sun) into electricity. It does this with very minimal heat loss, generates as much energy as possible from the heat that it harvests. The best part about this project is that it is very scalable and low cost! That is one of the most important aspects of new tech because cost and scalability determine if and when it will be used.

 

Besides energy harvesting, graphene has promising future applications in solar sea-water desalination to create clean, drinkable water. The conversion from solar energy to vapour is an astounding 96.2% effective! This can mean low-cost, and highly effective water access to communities that don’t have drinkable water readily available. Currently, graphene sells for 100$ to 200$ per gram, which sounds expensive but considering how much graphene makes up one gram, you certainly get your money’s worth. 

 

While the above applications of graphene are already revolutionary in terms of energy harvesting and conversion, there are many more pros to this material. Graphene can also be used for infrared light sources, heaters, electronic devices, bulletproof materials, and maybe even an invisibility cloak (because why not)! 

 

Thank you for reading, I hope to see you again next week!

 

Have a wonderful Thursday!

-Stephen

 

Some Links

Graphene solar heating film offers new opportunity for efficient thermal energy harvesting

Novel form of graphene-based optical material developed

Hi everyone, welcome to another Green Tech Thursday!

 

Today’s topic is small-scale nuclear reactors.

 

Nuclear energy is a very controversial form of generating electricity. Nuclear energy is very reliable and has no emissions. Nuclear power plants are also relatively cheap to run, so why are they controversial? Well, accidents such as the Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters have demonstrated that, if things go wrong, they can go wrong in a very bad way. Thousands of people lost their lives as a result of the radiation, which is why some people will be hesitant to be supportive of nuclear power. Nuclear power plants are also very expensive to make, which means that sometimes it’s not a financially viable option. What does that mean for small-scale nuclear reactors?

 

Small-scale nuclear reactors, also known as small modular reactors (SMRs), are—as the name suggests—smaller than their power plant cousins. This comes with many benefits (otherwise we wouldn’t be talking about it😁)! One of the benefits is that these SMRs can be manufactured at factory locations, unlike the conventional nuclear power plants, which are, well, large power plants. The fact that they can be built in factories means that they can be much more cost effective. It takes about 12 SMRs to produce the same amount of power as a nuclear power plant BUT, SMRs require much less on-site construction, are much more flexible in their power production, produce less waste, have lower chances of radiation escaping, and are just as reliable (if not more)!

 

So how much power do 12 SMRs produce? Enough to provide electricity for 540,000 American homes, not people, homes. Considering that the average household had 2.54 people in 2019, we can assume that they provide enough power for almost 1.4 million people. So when can we see these guys hit the market? Great question. Some SMRs are already in use in Russia. In North America some designs are currently in the licensing phase, which means that soon (or relatively soon) we will see them being put to use. 

 

Nuclear power might just be the future of energy, and the solution to a greener world for all of us! The technology is constantly evolving and will only become smaller and more efficient. Who knows, in 100 years our cars, planes, ships, etc. might all be powered by a miniature nuclear reactor! If you are not a fan of nuclear energy, don’t worry! There are many other forms of energy such as solar, wind, and wave energy, which will be just as important and widely used!

 

Thank you for reading once again and I hope to see you next week!

 

Have a wonderful Thursday!

-Stephen

 

Some Links

The countries building miniature nuclear reactors

 

Hello everyone, welcome back to another Green Tech Thursday.

 

Today we are going to talk about light bulbs. More specifically, really good light bulbs.

 

In the United States alone, it is estimated that 670 million fluorescent light bulbs are going to waste on an annual basis. Due to 670 million light bulbs finding their way into landfills instead of being recycled, it is estimated that around 4 ton of mercury leaks into our environment. Now, this is a problem because mercury is poisonous and when let loose into the environment it will accumulate inside living organisms and work its way all the way to the top of the food chain—human bellies. 

 

Fear not for there are better alternatives! We have all heard about LED bulbs. LED bulbs don’t contain mercury, use less energy, last longer, and provide better lighting quality but the downside is that they are slightly more expensive. There is actually more than one downside to LEDs because while they might not contain mercury, they have other toxic materials such as lead and arsenic and a bunch of other harmful substances. However, if recycled properly, those substances don’t find their way into the environment and they won’t cause damage. 

 

Now here is some more good news. You’ve heard about LED bulbs and that they can last longer but how about a light that can last 60 years. Yes, you read that correctly, 6-0 years. That is a long time for one bulb to last but that is exactly what Dyson (yes, they’re the vacuum company) did. How do they do it? The answer lies in their cooling system. This new Dyson lamp is called the Dyson CSYS and it uses heat pipe technology that draws the heat away from the bulb—which is a LED chip on top of a light source—avoiding heat damage to light mechanisms. 

 

While LED bulbs certainly have their dark sides, they are a far better alternative to regular fluorescent bulbs, especially if they can last 60+ years. Investing in quality instead of quantity is a great way for all of us to make the most out of the materials we buy. This new Dyson lamp itself will still need to be made out of materials that will be harvested in a non-sustainable way but the difference between this lamp and other lamps is that you get to have it for your entire adult life (give or take). The principle of quality over quantity should be applied to all our devices, we can make the most of what we’ve got and indirectly spare the planet and its resources.

 

Thank you for reading and have a wonderful Thursday!

-Stephen

 

Some Links

Light Bulb Recycling

The Dark Side of LED Lightbulbs

 

Hi everyone, happy Green Tech Thursday!

 

Today’s topic is Environmentally Conscious Cargo Shipping.

 

The shipping industry is an incredibly polluting industry. There are about 90,000 active cargo ships, which produce 18-30% of the entire world’s NOx emissions! NOx emissions are responsible for smog, acid rain, fine particles—which we inhale—and ground level smog, which is a gas that causes a range of negative health effects.

 

Fortunately, the EU and the UN are expected to change the laws surrounding shipping pollution. One of the laws would result in a 230-mile buffer zone along US and Canada coasts. This buffer zone would reduce the NOx and SOx emissions significantly, saving the lives of 8,000 people who would have died from complications caused by air pollution!

 

There is more good news, however. The shipping industry is slowly moving towards a zero-emission future by bringing back sails and developing brand-new technology. The downside to sailing cargo ships is that, while they have no emission during travel, they can’t haul the same amount of supplies as the enormous, polluting cargo ships can. A company called Neoline is developing ships that are longer than football fields and will be able to carry up to 500 cars in one go. Neoline’s first 2 ships will still have diesel-electric engines for auxiliary power but this will be converted to hydrogen and solar, truly making them emission free.

 

Another way to change the industry comes in the form of electric ships such as the Yara Birkeland, a Norwegian beauty. The ship runs entirely on electricity but requires many stops to recharge. The development of new hydrogen cell technology would allow the Yara Birkeland to travel much longer distances in one go and fulfill its goal, which is to replace 40,000 trips by truck a year.

 

The shipping industry will not reach an emission-free future anytime soon because sails only work on windy routes and electric ships don’t have the capacity to travel very long distances yet but a serious reduction in emission is coming. For an industry that contributes 3% of the world’s carbon emissions (the flying industry is responsible for 2.4%), this will have a huge impact!

 

Thanks again for reading and see you next week!

 

Have a wonderful Thursday!

-Stephen

 

Some Links

Cargo ships are big polluters. Can they go back to using sails

Old News: Health risks of shipping pollution have been ‘underestimated’

 

Welcome back to another Green Tech Thursday!

 

Today’s topic is plastic, or rather, plant-based plastic.

 

It’s no secret that plastic is being used on a global scale and with many, many uses. Plastic plays such a huge role in everything we do, so much so that more than 300 million metric tons of plastic is produced every single year. What’s even more shocking is that about half of this is all single-use plastics. That is 150 million tons of plastic used once and discarded. Each year, 8 million tons of it finds its way into the ocean. That is a dizzying amount.

 

Unfortunately the bad news doesn’t stop there. Plastic has components that are derived from oil, which means that producing that much plastic leaves a very (very) large carbon footprint. Global demand for plastic is increasing so we absolutely need new ways to produce it. This is where plant-based plastic comes into play!

 

Plant-based plastic is exactly what it sounds like, instead of deriving its components from fossil fuels, it comes from plants! A Dutch scientist called Gert-Jan Gruter and his team have developed a plant-based plastic that can be fully recycled, requires no chemicals derived from fossil fuels, and cuts the carbon footprint of production by 70%. That is a big step. It is important to know that while plant-based plastics (or bioplastics) have a lower carbon footprint, not all of them are fully compostable.

 

Large companies such as Coca-Cola have already incorporated plant-based plastics into their products but despite this, bioplastics still remain a niche. This niche is growing, fortunately, but it still faces many problems such as limited manufacturers and higher production costs.

 

The tech is still evolving and hopefully one day, soon, we can have a future where most plastics are compostable, plant-based, and sustainable, saving our oceans and the wildlife within them.

 

Thank you for reading and I hope to catch your attention again next week.

 

Have a wonderful Thursday!

-Stephen

 

Some Links:

China’s Ban on Plastic Waste Imports

Plastic “Fun” Facts

Gert-Jan Gruter named European Inventor Award 2017 finalist

Hi everyone, happy Green Tech Thursday!

Today’s topic is fish scales as electronic displays.

You may or may not have noticed that the display of your computer, phone, tablet, and other electrical devices is mostly made from plastic. With foldable phones coming to the market, it is crucial that the displays are flexible enough to withstand being bent hundreds of times whilst retaining their transparency. A display that’s not transparent won’t be able to display anything at all!

Researchers in China have come up with a very creative way of substituting plastic displays with an environmentally friendly and fully biodegradable option (and if you read the title you might already know the answer): Fish Scales! With 70.5 million tons of fish waste produced every year, and a little more than 2 million tons being fish scales, there is no shortage of supplies.

So how do you go from a fish scale to an electronic display? First, the researchers developed a gelatin from the fish scales, which is then turned into a film and tested for flexibility. The films are able to withstand being folded more than 1,000 times without losing their transparency. Silver nanowires and light-emitting materials made from zinc sulfide and copper are then inserted into the fish scale film to complete the display. Voila, now you have a flexible, environmentally friendly electronic display!

My favorite part about the fish scale displays is their biodegradability. Should they find their way to a landfill (which they certainly will), they will decompose after 24 days in the soil. Along with being biodegradable, they can also be recycled completely by being dissolved in warm water. I don’t know what this means in regards to it being waterproof or water resistant but it’s always a safe bet to keep your electronics dry and out of the rain.

Our future is green as biological materials are being considered in many different disciplines. Medicine, construction, energy, and daily life will all be impacted by these changes. While we still have a long way to go, real progress is happening every day!

Thank you for reading and see you next week.

Have a wonderful Thursday!

Hi everyone, welcome to Green Tech Thursday.

Today I will tell you a little about harnessing the power of our oceans.

As global warming is getting closer and closer to its tipping point, our world is looking into new and innovative ideas to harvest energy in a sustainable manner. One such idea is harnessing wave energy. Waves along the American coastlines produce enough energy to provide power to an estimated 100 million homes. That is an incredible amount of power. Unfortunately, most of that energy is currently going to waste, as nothing is out there harvesting it…yet.

CalWave is a company that’s currently working on a Wave Energy Converter (WEC) to harness our oceans’ power. The idea for the WEC has been around for almost a decade and inspiration initially came from a natural source (as most great ideas often do), namely muddy seafloors and their ability to dissipate ocean waves within a very short distance. The WEC would mimic the muddy seafloors as a flexible “carpet”, rippling under the pressure of the crashing waves and creating electricity!

There are many pros to the WEC design such as storm survivability (as it is safe under the water), no eyesore (again, as it can’t be seen underwater), and no collision danger for wildlife because they will be constructed in dead zones, avoiding wildlife and boats. Waves are a constant stream of energy and are therefore very reliable and consistent in providing energy. As long as we have a moon, waves will continue to crash! There are, however, some cons as well. The effectiveness of the WEC decreases the deeper you go, meaning that it will do best in shallower waters and can’t span miles upon miles under the open ocean.

When can we see this technology being put to use on a wide scale? Great question. My best guess would be in another decade or so. The technology has made great leaps from its inception at the University of Berkeley in California in 2012, to receiving a reward from the U.S. Department of Energy in 2019 to produce the next WEC models. All in all, the tech is not just a nice idea, it’s a realistic idea. This is a great example of how our world is adapting to our unsustainable way of living and providing a solution, allowing us to move towards a greener future.

Thank you for reading and see you next Thursday!

If you want to know more about the science behind the wave carpet, click here!

Take a look at CalWave‘s website.