The world is facing major environmental concerns these days. Global warming, increasing pollution levels, melting of polar ice caps are some of the major challenges. The solution lies in more and more use of renewable energy. Therefore, the current period is of emerging sustainable energy technologies. Offshore wind, lithium-ion battery storage is the emerging industries going strong.
Low-carbon grid technologies are gaining strength and achieving the scale needed to compete with non-renewable energy sources. However, challenges lies with the use of longer-term grid decarbonization technologies. Meanwhile, a lot of innovative techniques have developed to tap the renewable energy sources. In this article, we have brought 5 such emerging technologies.
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Wind energy is being used for a long time. It requires a huge investment in setting up wind farms and you may face opposition from the people whose land you need to take to set up the farm. The good news is that turbines are not the only way to tap wind energy. There’s an alternative called Kitenergy which is much cheaper and better. A kite is linked to the ground by two ropes. Rotating mechanism and generators are used on the ground. The traction forces act on the wing ropes which is converted into electrical power. Even energy experts like Douglas Healy feels that such type of traditional technologies needs little advancement to cope up with the future.
The kites are often put up at the heights of about 800-1000m. The high-altitude winds are stronger and more constant than at the turbine level.
It is another innovative unique way of tapping solar power to generate electricity. The technique owes its origin to french civil engineering company Colas. Wattway is a pavement material that is applied directly to the existing road and it will harvest solar energy. 20m² of Wattway panels can provide enough electricity to power a single house.
Wattway was first tested on a 29km stretch of road in Georgia, USA, called ‘The Ray’. There lies the possibility of using the energy to wirelessly charge electric vehicles travelling down the highway.
A research team from North Carolina State University has devised a way to generate energy through your wearables such as watches, smart jewellery, etc. The body’s heat is trapped by applying a layer of thermally conductive material that rests on the skin and a layer of polymer that prevents the heat from dissipating through to the outside air.
The conductive material forces the heat to pass through a thermoelectric generator embedded in the clothing. It is possible to generate energy up to 20 µW/cm², more than enough to power your wearable.
Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro is known for its football lovers. The children living in the favelas had no way out of playing after dark since they had no money to pay for floodlights. Laurence Kemball-Cook, a British engineer took notice of the issue and came out with a solution. He suggested converting the players’ footsteps into electricity. As the children ran through the pitch, their kinetic energy was absorbed in the 200 tiles of the surface. The energy was stored in batteries and later used to illuminate the field.
The pilot project was carried by Pavegen, Kemball-Cook’s company which produces kinetic tiles. Pavegen has completed over 150 projects worldwide using this method, including train stations, shopping centres, airports, and other public spaces. It harvested energy from runners of the Paris Marathon.
5. Bionic Mushrooms
A research team from New Jersey’s Stevens Institute of Technology has developed an alternative use of sustainable energy. It used a 3D-printer and drew branched patterns onto the caps of living mushrooms using electronic ink combined with bio-ink. After that, a light was shown on the spiral pattern of the ink which led the bacteria to photosynthesize. The team was able to produce electrons and form a conductive network.
The amount of energy produced by a single mushroom isn’t enough for a single device, but from several mushrooms will be. The technology, however, is in its infant stage.
All the possibilities we saw here are quite promising. The world’s energy future lies in the use of renewable sources. Already we have done much damage to the environment through indiscriminate use of non-renewable energy sources. They are exhaustible and can’t be renewed once used. The use of renewable energy sources such as sun, wind, water has opened a whole lot of possibilities.