Environment

10 Innovations That Could Help Save the Planet

In a world where climate change and natural disasters seem to increase every year, we can't help but wonder what can be done to help.

Ever since the time of the Industrial Revolution, human activities have caused severe detriment to the environment. Fossil fuels used in energy production emit greenhouse gasses which are the primary cause of global warming and climate change. Governments around the world have invested billions of dollars in the research of new ground-breaking technologies which offer alternative energy sources. Scientists and inventors have been hard at work to develop ideas that can help protect our planet for more generations to come. Below are a sampling of these innovations.

10. LED Lights

LED stands for "light-emitting diode". It is a relatively new technology used in the manufacturing of light bulbs. LED lights produce the most energy-efficient form of lighting with the bulbs consuming about 10% of the energy used in the traditional bulbs (incandescent lamps). LED lamps have a lifespan of over 30,000 hours of illumination, an impressive figure compared to the 8,000 hours offered by traditional bulbs.

9. Landfill gas

Landfills are areas where public waste is dumped and in some occasions, where recycling of the waste is carried out. Due to the various chemical reactions in the waste, landfills produce high amounts of greenhouse gasses with methane gas and carbon dioxide being the majority. Experts have been studying the ways of utilizing these gasses and have come up with ways to tap these gasses and use them for energy production through combustion. The US has invested heavily in this new technology and has 399 projects harnessing landfill gasses to produce energy.

8. Wind energy

Wind is another important source of green energy and has limitless potential. Wind power is seen as a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels due to its renewability. Wind turbines used to harness the kinetic energy from wind occupy a relatively small area and have minimal environmental effects. More countries around the world have been embracing the use of wind power, which currently accounts for 4% of the total global electricity production. In the European Union, 44% of all new power generated in 2015 was from wind power.

7. Ocean thermal energy conversion

Ocean thermal energy conversion is a process where energy is produced from the variation in ocean water temperatures. Ocean thermal energy conversion is still in its infancy, but great strides are being made with millions of dollars invested in research. Scientists see the technology as having great potential with several countries conducting pilot projects. Ocean thermal energy conversion produces green energy and has many crucial by-products as well including fresh water used for irrigation and domestic purposes. Currently, Japan is the only country in the world with an operational ocean thermal energy conversion plant located on Kume Island.

6. Better nuclear energy

Nuclear energy is one of the most important sources of energy in the world. Developed countries have set up several nuclear plants which produce energy through nuclear fission with the key component being uranium. However, the amount of ore from which uranium is mined has been declining. The nuclear disasters in Chernobyl and Japan have made scientists look for alternative elements for the nuclear fission process. Thorium has become the new frontier in nuclear energy due to its abundance in the Earth’s crust and produces far less nuclear waste making the element the best alternative, and thorium-based nuclear energy is seen as the future of nuclear power.

5. Fuel cell technology

Fuel cell technology is the use of fuel cells to produce sustainable energy. A fuel cell uses chemical reactions to produce electricity and is comprised of two electrodes and an electrolyte. The use of fuel cell technology is an area being looked at by scientists as an alternative to fossil fuels. The technology is commonly used in traditional car batteries, and experts are looking into ways of scaling up the technology.

4. More adaptable solar panels

Solar energy is one of the most important sustainable energy sources and has limitless potential. However, the type of technology used in developing solar panels limits the amount of energy produced. Solar panel technology has grown in leaps and bounds over the years and has been accepted in many countries all over the world. However, the technology is usually quite expensive to set up when compared to other energy sources. Researchers are therefore working tirelessly to seek ways to reduce this high cost as well as make the solar panels more energy-efficient. Some of the technologies looked into including the use of pyrite in the manufacturing of solar panels.

3. Fual-efficient vehicles

In many developed economies, vehicles are one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. In the past, environmentalists have been vocal in their criticism against car manufacturers calling for the manufacture of eco-friendly vehicles. This criticism has yielded in the recent upsurge in the manufacture of fuel-efficient vehicles. For many car manufacturers in Europe, the United States, and Japan, fuel-efficiency is one of the most important factors they look at before releasing a car to the market. To curb the greenhouse-gas emissions, these fuel-efficient cars must be accessible to the general public.

2. Better cooling and heating systems

The traditional ways of temperature regulation in buildings is through the use of air conditioners, many of which consume massive amounts of energy from non-renewable sources. Some air conditioners use fossil fuels which emit greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. However, there are many other “green” alternatives which can be used as cooling and heating systems. The most popular of the alternatives is the use of solar energy where various systems are incorporated into the building’s design to convert sunlight into energy.

1. Better building insulation

North America is notorious for its harsh winter conditions where temperatures often drop below zero. Homes built in such harsh environments employ various forms of insulation to insulate the houses from the freezing winter temperatures. Of the many insulating systems used, spray foam insulation is one of the most preferred options. However, in recent years, experts are staying away from the use of spray foam insulation as well as other tradition insulating methods and are looking for more eco-friendly insulation systems. One of the easiest eco-friendly methods of insulation is the use of cotton denim-a recycled industrial waste, as well as the cellulose insulation where Cellulose is usually made from recycled papers. By using these new insulation technologies, homeowners help in reducing the amount of waste dumped in landfills.

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