At the beginning of the 21st century, due to the alarming growth of environmental pollution, humanity began to seek more ways towards nature preservation. Such ways cover everything that relates to all spheres of people’s interaction with nature. Environmental innovations are basically aimed at replacing environmentally hazardous practices in different industries.
Eco-innovations are implemented in the form of modern products and processes that ensure natural resources are used to a minimum and the emissions of harmful substances are significantly reduced. The main innovations in ecology are associated with the development of technology overall, methods of waste processing, and technologies that reduce the level of pollution. Such solutions are in demand in construction, energy, transport and logistics, water resources management, and more.
We’ve gathered top 5 technological eco-innovations to show real examples of how the power of modern technology can be used to the benefit of the environment.
The concept of smart farming implies farm management with precision to ensure sustainability. For this, farmers use different technologies like AI, IoT, drones, robotics, and satellite data when farming crops. Such an approach allows for both increased quantity and quality of products and the optimization of all farming processes, which means lower production costs.
Here are the most widely used technologies modern farmers can use:
- Ground sensors. Such devices can be used to track soil moisture, temperature, light, humidity, and more.
- Software. Online tools designed specifically for farmers use different algorithms to analyze satellites, ground sensors, or drones’ collected field data on-the-fly in one place.
- Robotics. The market offers different autonomous equipment and vehicles for farmers: tractors, processing facilities, and much more.
With such tools at their disposal, growers can monitor their crops throughout the whole season remotely, not having to go to the field. Besides, thanks to the availability of all the necessary relevant data and its accuracy, farmers can make decisions faster and with higher certainty.
The sun gives our planet thousands of times more energy than is consumed by humanity every year. And the use of solar power is nothing new in the modern world. The main advantages of solar energy are general availability and inexhaustibility, as well as the safety of solar power plants for the environment (without taking into account the damage to the environment at the stage of production of these plants).
For a long time, solar energy has been dependent on subsidies and government support. But the declining cost of solar panels and the influx of investment in the industry in recent years have made solar power much more affordable and hence available. In some countries, it is already able to compete with energy obtained from coal, and in India it has become the cheapest source of electricity overall, The Wall Street Journal claims.
Long-term Energy Storage
Wind and solar power are the fastest-growing sources of electricity in the world, but they only generate power at certain times. Energy storage systems allow this energy to be used on-demand.
Today, the largest source of energy storage is hydropower, which uses energy to pump water into a reservoir at a higher level, and when necessary, releases it and generates electricity. But such large construction projects are too expensive and difficult to build.
That is why lithium-ion batteries have gained absolute dominance in the energy storage sphere in recent years. But they can rarely operate at full power for more than four hours. And even though they may technically last longer, they tend to be more expensive given today’s market dynamics.
Luckily, new long-term storage technologies are already here. One of such technologies implies the storage of renewable energy in molten salt. Another solution is building low-cost thermal batteries for grid-scale energy storage.
Scientists at the University of Vermont have created xenobots – living robots that can move and repair themselves. The xenobots got their name from the African clawed frog Xenopus laevis, from which scientists took material for their development.
This project was developed using the Deep Green supercomputer, which took into account the characteristics of cells and programmed requirements for robots, for example, the ability to move. Then the computer chose the forms that are most suitable for solving the tasks assigned to the robot. Scientists have collected stem cells from frog embryos and constructed organisms from them according to the models that the supercomputer advised.
Xenobots are not like traditional robots since they have no artificial mechanisms or robotic arms. Instead, they look more like balls of moving flesh. Contrary to traditional robots that deteriorate and fail over time, negatively harming the environment and human health, xenobots are more environmentally friendly and safe for humans. Xenobots can be used for a variety of tasks, including cleaning up radioactive waste and collecting plastic in the oceans.
PhotoSynthetica is an algae-based cladding system developed by EcoLogic Studio to allow buildings to “breathe”. Here is what that means. The technology lies in attaching large panels to the building. These panels will “breath in” the street’s unfiltered and polluted air and “breathe out” photosynthesized oxygen back into the street. This works thanks to the algae’s property to capture carbon dioxide and other pollutants. The developers of PhotoSynthetica panels claim that two square meters of such cladding can absorb the amount of CO2 equivalent to a mature tree.