Electric Lamborghinis and carbon-neutral eggs: the best green innovations of the week
In a week of eye-opening reports for the green economy, edie rounds up the low-carbon and resource-efficient innovations that could shape the future.
The week started with a damning report warning that the burning of fossil fuels around the world is set to hit a record high in 2017, lamented as a “giant leap backwards for humankind” by some scientists.
Elsewhere, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) released a study on a coalition which brings companies together to accelerate clean technologies to stay below 2C. The group aims to reduce global emissions by 65%, while ploughing $5-10trn into the low-carbon economy.
The International Energy Association (IEA) published its flagship World Energy Outlook Report, which explores the major trends that will disrupt the sector over the next 25 years. edie has provided seven key findings of the report.
Many of these reports were launched at Bonn, to garner interest among a big and relevant audience. A plethora of business and government announcements have also been made at the event. This includes the UK Government committing to two projects worth £62m to combat deforestation in Latin America.
COP23 examines the progress made towards the goals of the Paris Agreement. This week, Microsoft aligned itself with those goals, pledging to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 75% by 2030.
But all of these targets and reports highlight the ever-changing landscape of sustainability, and new technologies will always have a place at the table. With that in mind, edie has once again pulled the best innovation stories of the week into this neat and tidy little green package.
Ghini-us new electric vehicle
It seems we’ve entered the era of never-ending electric vehicle (EV) announcement. Not a week goes by where some of the world’s biggest carmakers don’t unveil new electrification plans, and this week it was the turn of Lamborghini.
The supercar specialist has partnered with MIT to produce a semi-autonomous, electric sports car. The Terzo Millennio supercar consists of a carbon fibre body with technology embedded so that is can actually monitor its structure before any cracks appear.
The vehicle won’t actually be fitted with standard EV batteries, but rather has supercapacitors that deliver faster charge times connected to four electric motors, located in each wheel. The vehicle will be semi-autonomous, but it is believed this will be for road navigation rather than parking.
Step aside pesticide
Farming and agricultural sustainability is faced with a myriad of problems. From food to land use and pesticides in between, no matter what corner we turn a new problem seems to arise. However, industry experts have suggested that tiny robot farmers may alleviate numerous issues at once.
Experts from institutions such as Keele University analysed the role of robotics, some of which are at advanced stages in labs, in farming practices. They suggested that robots working in fields could aim pesticides to certain plants, a much more efficient method than traditional means, which waste around 95% of the pesticide.
Although they aren’t commercially ready in the UK, the robots would be able to detect malformed, perishable crops and those too small to be harvested, this would allow for new harvesting practices which could reduce food waste. All we need now is a high level of private-sector investments into the concept.
Delhi’s air quality choppers are all in a spin
Sometimes innovation seem good on paper, but less so in reality. The Delhi Government has worked with national helicopter carrier Pawan Hans to create an action plan that would see helicopters spray water over smog-covered areas of the city to reduce exposure to air pollution.
It sounds promising at first glance, but the initiative was set for take-off this week and things didn’t quite go to plan. With thick levels of smog and haze looming over the Indian capital, the helicopters were meant to take flight, but poor visibility meant they weren’t cleared for take-off.
It’s also worth pointing out that much of the southern quarters of Delhi are strict no-fly zones. The concept would provide a much-needed solution to India’s spiralling air quality levels, but perhaps it will be more effective when haze levels are a little lower.
Dracula feeds on artificial light
Smartphone charging varieties are a common feature on these weekly roundups, and this week is no difference. In fact, you’d argue that flexible solar cells that can be fitted to smartphones aren’t even that innovative, but the fact they can power themselves using ambient light is a gamechanger.
French solar company, Dracula Technologies, has developed “Light As Your Energetic Response” technology called LAYER. It can be manufactured using inkjet printers to produce foldable sheets that capture energy from the sun and artificial light.
The cells take about an hour to print, and are customisable both in colour, shape and size. However, the technology is still in its infancy and Dracula Technologies is currently exploring ways to reduce the amount of time it takes to fully charge a smartphone.
What came first, carbon neutral or the chicken?
The phrase “carbon neutral” is usually reserved for new sustainability strategies or particular buildings, but over in the Netherlands it now applies to eggs. One Dutch researcher has embarked on a new business model that moves away from organic egg practices of feeding chicken human-grade corn.
The researcher argues that 70% of the carbon footprint in eggs is accounted for by the feed for the chickens, and instead collects discarded biscuits and rice cakes from local bakeries to feed the chickens.
A study by the Wageningen University found that the production of the eggs is in fact carbon neutral, although a big factor in this process is the 1,078 solar panels installed at the farm near the Dutch city of Venray. These panels provide enough energy to run the entire farm.
Indoor air assistance
According to Finnish health technology firm Naava, Americans can inhale up to 3,000 gallons of dirty and contaminated indoor air each day. While other companies are taking the air quality battle to the streets, Naava has come up with an indoor solution.
The company’s smart green wall absorbs indoor air, with the microbes of the plant’s roots purifying it as it is gathered. Fans then push the purified air back out into the room to improve air quality. The vertical green walls come equipped with water tanks and a lamp negates the need for natural light.
The walls have been tested in the UK, and are found to have a high-level of efficiency. Although a maintenance team carries out updates every four to six weeks – at the cost of $249 – the wall does utilise artificial intelligence and monitoring sensors to provide feedback on air quality levels.