Technology is an amazing thing. For the most part, it makes our lives easier and even improves our health and the quality of our lives. But, some new technology is taking things one step further by going out of its way to benefit the planet.
The following technology is technology that is changing the world, literally, for the better. This is the perfect opportunity to explore these new innovations to see which ones are good fits for your lifestyle and interests.
While not yet a product on the market, Solar Roadways is an exciting concept that’s almost there. The technology combines a transparent driving surface with underlying solar cells, electronics, and sensors. These roadways are not only collectors that harness the sun’s vast power, they are also programmable.
This technology isn’t limited to highways and Interstates. It will be available for parking lots, side streets, driveways, sidewalks, and even airline tarmacs. Literally all drivable surfaces will eventually become collectors of solar power capable of generating pollution-free electricity for businesses and homes in communities of all sizes!
These are a few of the other benefits these roadways provide:
Roads remain snow and ice free (no more need for snow removal services that cost some communities huge amounts of money each year).
- Clean, renewable energy.
- No potholes!
- Modular, making repairs simpler and smaller in scale.
- Eliminates mobile phone dead zones.
- The road itself is programmable, and can warn drivers of accidents, lane closures, and other dangers ahead.
- LEDs provide safer nighttime lane designations (no fading paint to worry about).
- Lowers greenhouse emissions substantially.
- Create a stark reduction in our reliance on fossil fuels.
In some circles there are even arguments that making the move to solar roads will help to power electric cars while parking and on the go, making them a more practical choice for all drivers.
Of course, this is because solar vehicle owners would be able to recharge their vehicles while stopped at any mall or restaurant while traveling – as long as the facility has solar road panels. Researchers are already looking for some type of mutual induction method that will allow owners to charge their electric vehicles while driving.
The panels themselves are largely constructed from recycled materials, making them even better for the planet as these materials – enough to provide roads, sidewalks, driveways, etc. EVERYWHERE – will be recycled and put to good use for the planet. That’s a huge benefit for the planet.
While Solar Roadways are not yet available in the United States, there is one that has been functioning in the Netherlands since November, 2014. According to Huffington Post reports this solar bike path has been far more successful than anticipated by providing more power than was expected.
While this technological wonder is still not widely available, let’s explore a few green technology marvels that are.
LED Light Bulbs
In 1879, the incandescent light bulb was first marketed to the world. It ruled in U.S. markets for more than 100 years until the compact fluorescent lamp began to get a foothold on the bulb market.
While the CFL was invented in 1976, it didn’t become a major contender in the market for light bulbs until many years later after improvements were made to the design and performance in the 1990s.
Today, the CFLs of the 1990s are about to meet their match in the LED lightbulb. Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) are much more energy efficient than CFLs, longer lasting, and provide brighter lights. The U.S. Department of Energy calls them the “most efficient lights on the market.”
The other great thing about LED bulbs is that while other lightbulbs release a good percentage of their energy as heat, the LED bulb releases 95 percent of its energy as light and only five percent as heat, according to Solar Electric Power Company. Fluorescent bulbs, by contrast, release as much as 95 percent of their energy as heat and the remaining energy as light.
Dryer balls have been around for a while, but are once again getting notice in green circles for the planetary benefits they provide. These large knobby rubber balls benefit the planet in two ways.
First, they eliminate the need for fabric softening dryer sheets that create a lot of debris. Second, they speed up the drying process. Home owners can appreciate the money saving benefits alone. The fact that they benefit the planet by reducing demand for energy and eliminating a common source of waste is cake with icing!
Researchers at Harvard are close to making a game-changing discovery when it comes to organic batteries. The problem with energy storage has always been the prohibitive costs. Existing batteries are highly effective for storing energy, but the metals used within the batteries have made them unaffordable on a large scale. The research at Harvard, though, uses organic molecules that reduce the costs substantially. Some believe this may represent a tipping point that makes renewable energy more widely accessible and affordable.
There have been many instances where GPS has been designed to study things like the birds, turtles, bears, and other animals in the wild in order to learn important things about the animals, endangered species in general, that help scientists understand the animals better so they can develop new ways to encourage repopulation and growth of the species.
This is a process referred to as solution-focused GPS. The data is collected via GPS so that scientists can come up with solutions for particular problems, answers to questions, and more. It’s effective because the GPS is able to track information in real time and send it directly to the scientists who can record then study the data to formulate their theories and/or solutions.
Solar panels are a great idea for helping to power the home – for families that can afford them. The problem is that they are expensive, bulky to install, and, well, unsightly. Even among those who want to do great things for the planet, it’s enough to give pause. Enter Solar Spray.
Solar Spray is a product developed by Norwegian company EnSol AS that is designed to turn ordinary windows into solar panels. Home owners simply spray the translucent solution on their windows and it converts the windows into solar panels that help to power the home.
Green Power Outlets/Green Power Strips
Green power for the masses is still a long way off. That means that consumers, on individual levels, must take matters into their own hands and seek out new ways to be smarter about how they consume power in the home.
Even among the most energy conscious consumers there are daily challenges to living greener, less wasteful lives. One of the problems we face is the problem of energy vampires. These are electronics and appliances that suck small amounts of electricity continuously – even when not in use. The fact that they are plugged in means they are consuming electricity.
This wastes precious natural resources, requires countless additional emissions year after year, and costs individuals and families in the form of higher electricity bills.
Green power outlets and power strips. Green power outlets operate on a single scale. You can plug them into your wall outlet and they will “sense” when items are not actively being used and stop the power from flowing to these electronics, items, and devices.
Green power strips work in much the same way – only on a larger scale by controlling the flow of power to six or more devices. Both offer many benefits to the families that use them and the planet too.
Electric vehicles offer emission free driving without paying at the pump. This is a real winner for drivers and the planets on numerous levels.
- No gas.
- No gas refineries.
- No carbon emissions.
- No need for oils, lubricants, etc.
The other benefit of electric vehicles extend to their drivers. Electric vehicles are available at low prices. Combine the low price with government incentives and the price goes down even further. That’s just for buying the car. The other economic benefits come when it’s time to fuel the vehicle. You plug it in overnight and it’s ready to go. No pain at the gas pump required. No more worries about the constantly changing costs of gas.
At the moment, there are a few drawbacks to consider, too. Chief among them is driving distance. Most electric vehicles at this point in time are limited to a 180 mile radius. This means you can’t go very far in them without refueling – a process that can take several hours with the current technology.
The other problem is limited power stations to help with refueling when away from home. Some college and university campuses are beginning to offer charging stations with prime parking for students as incentives for driving electric cars.
Shoe Power Generator
Walking is by far the greenest possible mode of transportation available to man. Dr. Ville Kaajakari, an assistant professor at Louisiana Tech University, may have found a way to make this particular transport method greener still. His invention is a shoe power generator that transforms the steps wearers take into electricity. While it isn’t sufficient to power a house or anything quite so ambitious, the electricity generated is sufficient to charge GPS devices or other small electronics.
The potential benefits are mind-boggling. No fossil fuels needed to power the iPod. Simply get stepping. Want kids to get up off the couch? Hide their mobile chargers and let them walk up a good charge. Healthier kids. Healthier planet. It’s an invention worth talking about. Hopefully, it will lead to even grander designs and applications in the future.
Technology is transforming the world in many ways. We can only imagine what the future holds, but as long as we continue making great strides for greener technology, it looks bigger and brighter for everyone.
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