Hybrid boats and paper batteries: the best green innovations of the week
In a week that mapped the future of renewables, edie rounds up the low-carbon and resource-efficient innovations that could shape the future.
Renewable output in the UK rose by 27% over 2017, more than enough to power the whole of Great Britain in 1958, according to the latest Electric Insights report from Imperial College London. Globally, the growth of renewables shows no signs of slowing.
In Europe, A cost-effective approach to integration could help the bloc double the percentage of renewable energy that it uses, while bringing Member States in line with a collective goal to reduce emissions by 40% by 2030.
Globally, renewable energy sources and electric vehicles are expected to be some of the biggest forces shaping the global energy transition up to 2040, according to an annual report from BP. The report claims that by 2040, renewables will be the fast-growing fuel source, increasing five-fold and providing around 14% of primary energy.
While the sun is shining on the renewables front, storm clouds are forming over the UK Government. The High Court has once again ruled that the UK Government’s efforts to combat toxic air pollution are unlawful, marking the third time that environmental law firm ClientEarth has won a court case against ministers.
Not too long ago renewables were viewed as an exciting innovation, but have since staked claims as a mainstream energy source. With that in mind, edie has once again pulled the best innovation stories of the week into this neat and tidy little green package.
A hybrid voyage
Transport remains the laggard of low-carbon uptake, and within that sector shipping and aviation are still struggling to clean up their emissions. At the Kleven Yard in Ulsteinvik, Norway, a new expedition ship is aiming to turn ambitions into reality.
Hurtigruten’s new hybrid expedition ship, the MS Roald Amundsen, has touched water for the first time during a launch ceremony this week. Construction of the world’s first hybrid expedition ship – branded the world’s greenest – will be matched with a near-identical sister vessel the MS Fridtjof Nansen.
Fitted with large battery packs, advanced construction and effective use of electricity, the ships are expected to reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 20%. MS Roald Amundsen will explore some of the most extraordinary places on earth, including Antarctica, the Arctic and a full North West Passage Crossing in 2019.
Between a rock and a farm place
Not only is farming a carbon intensive industry, it can also lead to soil degradation and impact freshwater quality. Fortunately, new research has found that Mother Nature may be able to provide the ideal cure for these farming issues.
Scientists at the University of Sheffield have published their findings into the Nature Plants journal, outlining how adding silicate rocks to cropland could capture carbon, provide protection against pests and diseases and restore soil quality and fertility.
The research examined the use of amending soil with crushed basalt left over from volcanic eruptions. Alongside the aforementioned carbon benefits, this approach doesn’t compete for land use, freeing more up to grow food, and doesn’t add to the demand for water.
Who runs the world?
As the number of homeless people in Los Angeles continues to rise, 12 young women from a high school a few miles north of the city have intervened with a timely solution. The women have partnered with DIY Girls, a group which aims to empower girls to take steps into the technology sector, to create solar-powered tents.
Select pupils from San Fernando High School will work with the group, which has since trained 650 female students from schools and institutions across the city. The solar-powered tent can also be folded into a backpack.
The tent is fitted with button-powered lights, USB ports, a micro-USB port, and could soon be fitted with a sanitising UVC light and countdown timer. The young women were awarded a $10,000 grant and will present the tent at MIT as part of a young investors conference.
Researchers at Australian firm CSIRO have developed a filtration technique using a unique graphene film that stops waterborne pollutants from entering into drinking water. Using a process called Graphair, which also utilises microscopic nanochannels, water directly from Sydney Harbour was tested and consumed after passing through the filter.
The researchers insist that Graphair is cheaper than graphene, as well as being faster and less damaging to the environment. It mainly consists of renewable soybean oil, which maximises the purifying filter.
Whereas traditional purification usually takes several steps, this breakthrough can provide instant access to clean, safe drinking water. With more than 2.1 billion people lacking access to clean water, this innovation could well be a revelation.
New life for nappies
The recent spotlight on plastic waste has got the UK and many other parts of the world talking about wider waste sources and resource efficiency. One such article on the BBC shed some light on an interesting plan to turn nappies into an array of items, among other innovations.
The BBC noted that three billion nappies are discarded in the UK every year. Waste2Aromatics is a £1bn project from Dutch firm Biorizon that focuses on swapping aromatics – raw materials in plastics – with wood fibre from used nappies and sanitary products.
Not only is this process expected to cut down on emissions in the manufacturing stage of items, it also recycles a product that is currently being sent to landfill. The company are now working on ways to scale up and commercialise its bio-aromatic solution.
Powered by paper
Batteries are generating a lot of buzz in the world of energy, but for all the benefits they have on improving energy use and resiliency, the production cycles for batteries of all shapes and sizes are still energy intensive, and for some, potentially toxic.
Barcelona-based Fuelium is looking to solve the production process by designing disposable batteries made from paper. The prototypes don’t create toxic waste, nor do they require complex recycling processes and collections.
Using paper, carbon and non-toxic metals, the batteries are only designed for powering applications that can detect disease in blood or tissue samples. So far the batteries – designed for single-use devices – have a voltage between one and six volts, with a power output between one and 100 milliwatts. The company has recently signed its first production contract.
Innovation centre at edie Live
From carbon-eliminating solutions to fresh ideas to drive resource efficiency, the Innovation Centre will showcase the pre-commercial solutions and ideas that could disrupt entire markets and take corporate sustainability to a new level. It will also feature some of the best innovations covered in edie.net in 2017.