4 Technologies That Are Going To Shape Up Green Energy

Photosynthesis discovery can help design more efficient artificial solar cells. Vertical axis wind turbines can offer cheaper electricity to urban and suburban areas. Airlines can reduce their gas emissions with renewable fuel.

These are some of the breakthrough innovations in renewable energy. While some of them may take years to become fully functional and used on a massive scale, the others are already making waves and paving the way to a greener future.

Here are our top four picks of the technologies that are going to shape up green energy:

Converting Footsteps into Electricity

The next time you walk across a new flooring installation in UW – Madison’s Union South later this year, you’ll be indirectly contributing to renewable energy production. A team of researchers led by Xudong Wang, a University of Wisconsin–Madison professor in collaboration with the UW–Madison Grainger Institute for Engineering, have come up with a high-tech flooring prototype based on another research.

The 96-square-foot rectangle wood flooring appears just like any other simple wood flooring. However, it can harvest the energy of footsteps and convert it into electricity.

The material used in the installation includes abundantly available waste material - wood pulp.

The recycled wood pulp is chemically treated to produce an electrostatic charge every time it comes into contact with an embedded electrode. This charge is then transmitted via embedded wires and can be used to charge batteries or power lights. The installation also contains a monitor, which displays the energy captured when visitors walk across the panels.

These panels are excellent options to save energy and costs, especially when they are installed in high traffic areas.

Storage System Integrated into Wind Turbine Systems

Electric car manufacturer Tesla has joined hands with Vestas Wind Systems A/S, a top wind turbine manufacturer based in Denmark.

The two well-known companies have come together to create a storage system that can be directly integrated into wind turbine systems. This is going to be one of the ten top wind-farm battery projects that Vestas team is currently working on in collaboration with several partners. Soon enough, the number of these projects are expected to go up with other companies from around the globe joining in.

Across a number of projects, Vestas is working with different energy storage technologies with specialized companies, including Tesla, to explore and test how wind turbines and energy storage can work together in sustainable energy solutions that can lower the cost of energy,” the company said in its official statement to Bloomberg.

With its collaboration with Tesla, Vestas is aiming to gain a competitive edge in the green energy domain. And America being one of the leading consumers of energy in the world, it can gain a stranglehold in the energy business in the future.

Alphabet’s Malta

The thing with renewable energy is that we need to wait for the optimal time or peak hours to harness the energy, store it and consume it. But what about storing it and using it during off-peak hours?

Alphabet Inc.’s research lab has started developing a thermal storage system, which will use salt to effectively store renewable energy. It is another “moonshot” from X lab and is one of the most promising projects.

Known as the ‘Malta’, it aims to bridge the gap between the abundance of renewable energy from wind and solar and store it specifically during peak power usage. The new system will have the capacity to last longer than the lithium-ion batteries. Additionally, it will compete with the new hydroelectric plants and other clean energy storage methods.

This powerful system has two tanks filled with salt while other two tanks are filled with antifreeze or hydrocarbon liquid. The entire system resembles a miniature power plant with four cylindrical tanks connected with pipes to a heat pump. This size can vary from a large garage to a full-scale power plant that can provide energy to wind farms, solar installations, industrial facilities or data centers. The system takes electricity turning it into hot and cold air. The hot air heats up the salt while the cold air cools down the antifreeze. In the next step, the process is then reversed with hot and cold air mixing together to create force enough to spin a turbine and creating electricity for the grid. The salt is used to maintain the temperature, which is useful for storing the energy for a long time, even days! It all depends on the insulation in the tanks.This technology becomes more interesting because of its on-demand power supply instead of relying on peak hours for power generation from renewable sources of energy.

Perovskites Solar Cells

Silicon cells are responsible for making most of the commercial solar panels. However, research is being undertaken to develop other materials to create silicon alternatives. According to a new research, materials or rather, a mineral called Perovskites (CaTiO3) looks promising enough. The term also applies to the synthetic compounds, which have the same crystal structure and similar structural chemical formula akin to the naturally occurring mineral.

Although it is not new and has been known to mankind since the 1830s, it was only in 2009 when Japan-based researchers realized the potential of this abundantly available mineral as a photovoltaic material. The mineral displays several useful properties including superconductivity, giant magnetoresistance, and photovoltaic activity. In fact, it has demonstrated an unprecedented increase in efficiency from about 3.8% to 20.1%.

Solar cells made from certain perovskites have efficiencies that mirror those of silicon. At the same time, they are easier to work with and are much cheaper. The crystals can also be grown easily at low temperatures. This indicates a bright future for solar energy.

Conclusion

These are some of the ways we’re taking steps towards green energy. While most of these technologies are still in their nascent stages, it will be interesting to watch how they evolve in the near future and help us inch towards a greener world.


Moderated by : Sylvain Bosquet

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