Who says tech won't save the world? Five innovative technologies hold out promise for significant advances in clean energy.
By Paul Batistelli
As the world turns its focus toward renewable power and increased efficiency, the tech scene has exploded with energy innovations. These high-tech tools are making major headway to help consumers and businesses conserve energy and reduce their carbon footprints. Check out some of the top energy tech trends that are transforming the way we think about power.
Tech Trend One: Carpet Fibers
It may seem strange that the material that covers the floors of billions of homes could make the top of any tech list. But believe it or not, scientists have introduced a material that makes it possible for carpet to generate energy.
Carpet made with photovoltaic-piezoelectric fibers, a patented technology developed by the University of Bolton's Institute for Materials Research and Innovation, could absorb kinetic energy from walking. And carpets aren't the only option. The fiber can be woven into any cloth, such as a tent, cellphone case or even clothing.
Tech Trend Two: Super Batteries
Sometimes the most useful innovations don't reinvent the wheel, they just improve on the technology that's already in place.
The University of Stanford has taken this idea to heart with its plans to build a supercharged anode battery, which will hold 10 times more power than a typical rechargeable lithium-ion battery. Not only could the device provide more power, it can last much longer. Scientists say the battery could operate at 97 percent capacity, even after it has been recharged 1,000 times.
Tech Trend Three: Solar Paint
Solar energy is no longer limited to massive rooftop arrays. In recent years, scientists have worked diligently to transfer the technology to everyday objects. And now, you may be able to buy solar power in a can of paint.
Researchers at the University of Notre Dame have created a low-cost solar paint that can convert energy once painted onto a conducting material, such as metal. So far, the university has only been able to reach one percent efficiency, far less than the 10 to 15 percent efficiency found in most solar energy systems.
Something could be said about where the technology is tested. But still, it's something to get excited about as the industry continues to develop and improve the technology.
Tech Trend Four: Water Evaporation and Humidity Power
Hot, sticky humidity doesn't make for the best weather, but it's not all bad. New research shows that humidity can actually be used to generate renewable energy. Harvard University's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering has introduced new technology that could capitalize on energy released by bodies of water.
The prototype is a sheet of rubber, coated with bacterial spores on one side. As water heats up from the sun and evaporates, the sheet dries out and bends. And as humidity rises, the sheet straightens out again, creating a movement that can be transformed into usable energy.
The humidity during a misty day can cause the plank to generate 1,000 times more force than a human muscle. Or to put it another way, moistening a pound of dry spores could provide enough force to lift a car.
Tech Trend Five: Human Energy
Harnessing the energy created by the human body has come a long way since the sci-fi fantasy found in The Matrix. Now scientists are actually developing technology that can use the power from human movement to power electronics.
Much of the headway in this field revolves around wearable tech, but Northwestern University has created a device that you only need to wear when you run. By attaching the device around your hips, it can capture your kinetic energy.
After just 45 minutes of running, you can charge your phone for eight hours, significantly reducing your need to stay plugged into an outlet. Of course, you'll have to get used to running with a device the size of a small dry erase board around your waist.
About the Author:
Paul Batistelli freelances in the energy field for the promotion of a greener society and energy means. He works to raise awareness on ecological issues, energy dependency and reducing carbon footprints.