Driverless racing cars and solar panels on bubbles: the best green innovations of the week

In a week that saw warnings of up to $1trn being wasted on unnecessary coal plants across the world, edie rounds up the latest low-carbon technologies and innovations that the money would be better spent on to drive the global green industrial revolution.

As churches and airports begin to flee from the dirty clutches of fossil fuels, cleantech innovators and entrpeneurs are beginning to navigate the innovation investment minefield and turn concepts into potentially game changing reality.

With ‘Liam the robot’ no longer hogging the sustainability limelight, edie has once again pulled the best innovation stories of the week into this neat and tidy little green package.

Can driverless cars lift trophies?

Seemingly worried by Fernando Alonso’s almost life-ending crash at the Australian Grand Prix, newly-launched motorsport championship ‘Roborace’ has unveiled a new concept for an all-electric, autonomous race car, which will be used in the world’s first driverless racing series.

The Roborace series is set to run as part of the support package of the 2016-17 Formula E championship season, making it the first global championship for driverless cars. The cars will take advantage of having no driver by using its floor as the main aerodynamic device, allowing for streamlined production due to not needing certain racing car add-ons and aspects.

We’re already trying to get hold of Lightning McQueen for comment.

Carbon gets plastered

There have been plenty of campaigns to keep carbon in the ground, but on its hell-bent quest to escape the Earth’s atmosphere, those pesky particles may soon have another capture sink to avoid.

‘Breathaboard’ from sustainable building materials developer Adaptavate is a bio-based plasterboard which consists of 75% plant matter that can lock carbon into the fabric of buildings. The concept was last week awarded £25,000 to scale up as part of the Shell LiveWIRE Smarter Future Programme, so soon you could be cocooning yourself in a carbon prison.

(Really) special fried rice

If building houses from plants doesn’t appeal to you then why not try living in a house made from rice? While first-hand experience tells us that the rice that gets stuck to the bottom of the saucepan is pretty durable, a 19-year-old from India has just proved that it could in fact become a viable building product.

Discovering the concept when she was just 15, Bisman Deu’s ‘Green Wood’ rice waste building board is waterproof and termite resistant. By mixing leftover rice husk and baking it, Deu believes that the world can cut back on both the amount of wood being used and the amount of waste rice being burnt in developing countries.

Currently the only young person on UNICEF’s Wearables For Good judging panel, Dau’s reputation is currently more impressive than her product, but that could be about to change as interest all over India and even Ecuador increases.

Houston, we don’t have any problems

NASA has previously claimed that America’s aviation industry could reduce pollutant emissions by 75% – saving $250bn in the process. Intent on putting its money where its mouth is (if rocket ships had mouths), the government agency has been busy developing a high performance “green” rocket propellant.

Set for lift-off in 2017, NASA’s Green Propulsion Infusion Mission (GPIM) is a new spacecraft which is reportedly “safer on the ground and more efficient in space”, and has already passed functional and environmental tests of both its system and software.

A glass half-full in Ethiopia

Recently winning the World Design Impact Prize in Taipei, this tower made from a bamboo frame and recyclable and biodegradable mesh can produce 100 litres of drinking water a day, from thin air.

Specially-coated fabric lines the Warka Water tower to collect moisture that appears in the air in the form of rain water, dew and fog. The tower has been used in Ethiopia where only 34% of the population has access to safe drinking water. And to think London is the 15th most water-stressed city

Forever blowing solar bubbles

We’ve all experienced days where all we think about is laying back and having a long soak in the tub. We at edie are inclined to add a bit of bubble bath and a rubber duck to the mix, so imagine our excitement when we heard that researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) had developed a solar panel so light it could float on bubbles.

Just one-fiftieth of the thickness of a human hair, these cells were created in a vacuum chamber at room temperature without the use of harsh chemicals and are apparently just as efficient as glass-based solar cells. If only someone would get to work on a solar rubber ducky.

Matt Mace

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