Dissolvable batteries and the world's smallest hydro station: the best green innovations of the week

In a week that saw two landmark sustainability initiatives secured in the UK and the US, edie rounds up some of the latest and greatest green innovations that could also benefit from support by Government-backed funding schemes.

With future green policies and innovation funding opportunities now secured, edie has once again pulled the best innovation stories into this little green package

With future green policies and innovation funding opportunities now secured, edie has once again pulled the best innovation stories into this little green package

The global landscape is currently sitting in the eye of a storm that could soon implode through a potential ‘Mr Brexit’ cocktail of climate negativity. While it is promising to see countries striving to ratify the Paris Agreement, the upcoming US Presidential elections could hinder major global climate action.

Fortunately, though, this week saw current President Barack Obama introduce new fuel standards for heavy-duty vehicles, while also promising to turn the North American continent into a renewable energy hotbed.

Closer to home, the newly-formed Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has just shed some light on where its climate allegiances lie. The abrupt abolishment of DECC was met with national concern, but over the past few days BEIS has secured two huge initiatives that will have major ramifications on the UK’s low-carbon ambitions.

Firstly, BEIS announced that the world's largest offshore wind farm, off the Yorkshire coast, had been granted developmental consent. This was followed by the positive news that BEIS and the Treasury would underwrite all Horizon 2020 innovation funding projects beyond the UK’s Union membership.

With these future green policies and innovation funding opportunities now secured, edie has once again pulled together the best innovations that could drive the global low-carbon, resource efficient transition into this neat and tidy little green package.

Drones deliver the highway of the future

Robots seem to be the flavour of the month. The BBC has just orchestrated the nostalgic return of Robot Wars, but more importantly, drones are now being viewed as a viable solution to package transportation – alongside a plethora of environmentally friendly actions, as we reported earlier this week.

For a team led by Avoid Obvious and Tetra Architects & Planners, the integration of drones formed the crux of their redesign of China’s Bao’an G107 highway – which is longer than Manhattan Island in New York. Architects have been tasked with designing ways to modernise the highway as a part of a competition and the duo’s vision utilises drones as a means to make the area carbon neutral by 2045.

This highway would support vehicles and pedestrian transport routes, as well as a separate stretch of highway specifically for drones. The multi-layer design would also utilise smart technology to manage and limit air and water pollution, while the surrounding area would be used to house business opportunities for the sharing and green economies.

Cycle your way out of poverty?

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have virtually enshrined social responsibility into many business mantras as companies seek to improve environmental, social and economic outlooks for people in all walks of life.

Two areas that the SDGs are keen for businesses to explore are reliable, clean energy and ending poverty. For the chief executive of Living Essentials – famous for the 'five-hour energy drink' – this new Free Electric hybrid bike could aid both.

Made from regular bike part so that it is easily fixable, the Free Electric Bike allows users to cycle and spin two flywheels that charges batteries by turning a built in generator. According to Living Essentials, an hour of pedalling can meet the electrical needs of a rural household for 24 hours. Trials in India will start next month with prices ranging from free to $250 depending on income.

No rings in my pockets, just hydro plants

If the phenomenon of Pokemon Go has taught us anything, it is that we are practically tethered to smartphones and chargers. As more of the global population moves out of poverty and gains access to modern technology, the need for clean charging power grows.

While renewable energy such as solar and wind are reliable they aren’t as flexible as tidal or hydro energy. However, while solar and wind can be absorbed from anywhere, access to hydro generating plants and stations becomes a bit trickier.

Enter Enomad, an energy start-up using a Kickstarter campaign to develop the world’s smallest hydro power plant. The Estream portable generator stores moving water from streams as energy as its turbines move. The battery, which can be dragged behind canoes, takes less than five hours to charge and when fully-powered can fuel up to three smartphones or devices such as tablets and GoPros.

This battery will self-destruct in five, four…

When it comes to waste electronic streams, batteries are the kryptonite to recycling and reuse standards. If they aren’t disposed of correctly, which is a common theme for struggling WEEE directives, they can release a plague of toxic chemicals into the environment.

Fortunately, researchers at Iowa State University have developed a specially designed battery that self-destructs when its exposed by light, head or liquid. Designed specifically for military purposes, the lithium-based battery can generate 2.5 volts and dissolve in water after 30 minutes.

While it is still in the developmental phase, research suggests that an expansion of the battery could eventually be used as a disposable means to power portable devices. However, questions will undoubtedly be raised about the use of resources on something that can essentially only be used once.

The straws of life for drinkable water

The march of the climate conscious, driven by celebrities and the Olympics, has seen awareness of global issues such as climate change and access, or a lack of, to everyday necessities like food and water gain relevance.

The LifeStraw concept has been doing the rounds on social media this week, as tech-savvy millennials share this simple-but-effective concept with their friends. The $20 straw uses a hollow fibre membrane that allows individuals to drink directly from murky and unclean water, by trapping pathogens in a light-weight purifier.

A purification pipe removes 99.99% of the water-borne bacteria and parasites that it collects, say the Danish innovators behind the concept. The straw can supposedly make 1,000 litres of contaminated water drinkable during its lifespan.

If man was sculpted from clay, then why not houses too?

Alongside drones and Pokemon Go, 3D printing is another concept that is really beginning to gain traction. It can be used to build infrastructure, car parts and even robots for Robot Wars. And now, the World’s Advanced Saving Project (WASP) has revealed that largest delta-style 3D printer in the world.

WASP has combined its 3D printing technology with biomimicry to create an adequately-sized building made from mud and clay for less than £50. Not only does using mud and clay as construction material lower the carbon footprint compared to concrete, the machinery can use it to build one metre of the structure each day.

This project is another example of providing low-cost living standards for people who are still struggling to get out of poverty, and with mud and clay and abundant source in rural and underdeveloped areas, this concept would significantly lower the footprint of a building’s lifecycle.

View more green innovations here.

Matt Mace


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green innovation | Innovation | technology | low carbon

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Technology & innovation
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