Each year, we celebrate Earth Day on April 22nd which marks the anniversary of the founding of what we can consider the modern environmental movement. With human activity taking an increasingly heavy toll on our planet, it has never been more important to consider new technologies and steps we can take to reduce our footprint. As such, in celebration of Earth Day, we compiled a list of promising green technologies that will drive the future of environmental protection.
Green architecture is less of a singular technology and more of a holistic approach to the way we design the buildings in which we live, work, and play. Buildings built using green architecture principles seek to minimize any harmful effects a building might have on human health or the environment. Typical hallmarks of green architecture are the use of natural lighting, effective insulation, renewable energy sources, and reclaimed building materials.
In the near future, green architecture may be able to make building materials out of waste that would typically end up in a landfill. As green architecture matures, we should see edifices that are truly “passive” in that they don’t require additional emissions for their construction and use.
It’s no secret that higher concentrations of greenhouse gasses are contributing to the “greenhouse effect” that causing the climate change we’re experiencing today. Carbon capture technology seeks to reverse that effect by taking carbon from the atmosphere and putting it to productive use. Carbon capture works by taking carbon from the atmosphere, transporting it via pipeline, and either using that carbon for new applications or injecting it into the ground for storage.
Today there are nearly two dozen commercial-scale carbon capture plants operating around the world with 22 more in the pipeline. If widely adopted, it’s estimated that carbon capture technologies could contribute up to 14 percent of the greenhouse gas emission reduction needed by the year 2050.
Biofuels have been around for some time and while using plant-based fuel sources is generally better for the Earth than burning fossilized carbon, the sources we derive biofuel from (normally corn or sugarcane) leave something to be desired. Currently, biofuels are costly to make, carbon-intensive to produce, and use resources that could otherwise be used to feed people. Some methods of biofuel production actually use as much carbon as would be needed to produce a similar amount of petrol.
Scientists are currently looking for ways to change that and early research suggests that algae could be a potential source of biofuel in the future. Algae’s abundance and relative affordability make it a prime candidate to replace traditional sources of biofuel.
Vertical farming (sometimes called indoor farming) is a trend that has taken hold on a small scale throughout the United States. When we generally think of farms, we think of plants growing in the ground that will eventually be harvested by machines. Vertical farming takes a different approach, typically using hydroponics to grow plants in densely populated urban centers.
With the world’s population estimated to reach nearly eight billion people by the year 2030, vertical farming has a wide array of benefits compared to traditional agricultural growing methods. First, it uses less space than would be typically needed for a traditional farm and eliminates water that would typically be lost to run-off. Additionally, vertical farming greatly reduces the number of carbon emissions as there are no tractors or heavy machinery used in the harvesting process. Vertical farming is also a way to effectively used empty buildings and repurpose them for greener use.
Next Generation Nuclear Power
Nuclear power plants get a bad rap. High profile accidents (see here, here, and here) and the need to store the waste byproducts for long periods of time have lead the world to sour on a potentially viable renewable power source. Nuclear power has a variety of benefits, the most important being that nuclear power plants don’t emit the greenhouse gases that fossil fuel-powered plants do. Next generation nuclear power builds on these benefits by making nuclear power more efficient.
Today’s nuclear reactors typically use uranium to power the reactions needed to produce electricity. Using uranium to power these plants is inefficient as only one percent of the energy available is used, while the rest is left behind in the form of radioactive waste. Scientists are now looking at materials like thorium, which use more of the available energy, are abundantly available in the Earth’s crust, and cut down on the amount of nuclear waste produced. Furthermore, materials such as thorium also have the added benefit of being in the isotopic form required for nuclear fission, which eliminates emissions that would usually be part of the refinement process. Uranium is still less costly to produce (hence why it’s still used), however research into alternative fuel sources is gaining momentum to make their use a reality.
Interested in helping to create the green technology of the future?
At Black Diamond Networks, we work with top companies creating the cutting-edge technologies of the future. If you’re looking for the opportunity to put your skills to work making our world a better place, we’d love to talk to you. To learn more about Black Diamond Networks and our open positions, visit www.blackdiamondnet.com or give us a call at 1.800.681.4734.