Seeing the devastation of BP’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico makes the small changes I’ve made to be more environmentally-friendly feel pointless. What kind of green technologies are being developed that make large-scale industries more environmentally-friendly?
I did some research and found five green technologies from the “clean tech” industry that illustrate the current trend in environmental engineering. These innovations clean engine emissions, prevent toxic mine drainage, make solar power affordable, use the ocean for electricity and optimize wastewater treatment. Now that’s inspiring. Let’s hope the oil spill will serve to expand these green technologies faster.
#1 Retrofit An Engine And Reduce Greenhouse Gases
Whether it’s a gas powered lawn mower or a factory-scale engine, Global Emissions Systems has created a converter that will go into an existing engine and use excess nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons that would have otherwise been emitted through the exhaust. These noxious gases all contribute to the greenhouse effect.
The GESi converter uses a precious metal coating of sorts to react with nitrogen oxide, undergoing a chemical process that breaks up nitrogen oxide into pieces. The nitrogen sticks to the coating, while the oxygen and other excess gases are burned.
This two-part converter is meant to be used in existing vehicles. Up until now, large companies would need to replace their fleet with energy-efficient vehicles. That barrier has been dissolved with the ability to retrofit an existing vehicle to a higher standard.
#2 Using Bacteria To Eliminate Acid Mine Drainage
Mining has a direct impact on ecosystems. Byproducts from the mining process are often lethal to animals and humans. To reduce the amount of byproduct that waste rock can produce years after the actual mining is completed, mining company BacTech is using bacteria to stabilize sulphides that come from mine tailings.
The patented BACOX “bioleaching” process they have developed was originally only used to coax gold out of stubborn rock, but they have since expanded its use to include the sulphide-rich waste rock they leave behind. BacTech’s “bioleaching achieves in 6 days what would normally take 20 years to occur naturally,” allowing the leachate to be remediated promptly.
Acid deposits form when mine tailings are exposed to air. The longer waste rock sits untreated, the more acid run-off spreads. Dealing with the problem as fast as possible saves the environment as well the company’s investment.
#3 Making Solar Power Affordable
Morgan Solar has developed a way to concentrate sun rays onto photovoltaic panels using less materials that are 100% recyclable, non-toxic, non-exotic, and extremely cheap. These low profile systems use glass and acrylic to reflect solar energy onto smaller PV cells. The new solar technology, called the Sun Simba, has been fully tested and will be commercially available in early 2011.
Morgan Solar has successfully accomplished their mission to make solar technologies affordable today, instead of ten years from now. In addition, creating a truly green technology that is made of components that are themselves environmentally-friendly is an outstanding achievment.
#4 Harnessing The Power Of The Ocean
Ocean waves can be used to provide electrical power and pressurized water for desalination. Wave Energy Technologies has created a device that is able to convert the energy created by waves in any wave climate.
“The WET EnGen™ continuously produces power on both the rise and fall of the waves,” as explained on their website, because it uses the physics of flotation. A floating device travels up and down as the wave passes, acting like a piston. A pre-commercial prototype is being designed after successful demonstration of the initial models. The prototype will be followed by a commercial installation.
Taking the steady rhythm of ocean swells and using it for energy on land speaks of the enormous aptitude engineers have for clean technology.
#5 Real Time Monitoring Of Wastewater Treatment
When wastewater is treated, the reaction with chlorine and chloramine produces waste called disinfection byproducts or DBPs. DBPs have been associated with birth defects and cancer. Once water is treated and filtered, it must be tested again to ensure there are no DBPs. This takes time and money, cutting down on efficiency of the treatment process.
Real Tech has designed a water quality monitor that uses ultra-violet light at the UV 254nm wavelength. A UV 254 monitor detects organics in water much faster than traditional methods so it can be used to monitor continuously, thereby optimizing the treatment process. This makes treatment of wastewater more efficient, less expensive and more effective.
Current Trends Are Inspiring
Large-scale industries are evolving to be more environmentally-friendly by creating novel clean tech innovations thanks to engineers who are thinking outside the box. As affordable solar and wave energy technologies expand, fossil fuels will become antiquated. Leaders in green technology will make it easier for companies to be more environmentally-friendly, leading to higher efficiency, less clean-up costs and an improved bottom line.
Personally, these new advances in the clean tech industry give me inspiration to make the small everyday changes I can. However small my contribution may be, it’s nice to know that I’m in line with the current trends in green technology.