Clean technology is any product or service that harnesses renewable materials and energy sources, eliminates emissions and wastes, reduces the use of natural resources, and enhances the productivity, efficiency or operational performance. Interest in this technology has increased since the 1990s with more understanding of the environmental impact of human activities.
Understanding of industrial design used in the 19th and 20th centuries, such as chemical manufacturing plant, internal combustion engine and fossil fuel power plants and a decline in the relative cost of these technologies have also been factors in the rise of clean technology.
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Cleantech is often associated with land use organizations and venture capital investments. Investments in technology have grown considerably since 2000. According to United Nations Environment Program, solar, biofuels and wind companies received a record $148 billion in 2007 due to rising oil prices and climate change policies. It was estimated that the three main clean technology sectors such as biofuels, wind power and solar photovoltaics will hit revenues of $325 billion in 2018.
Clean technologies are developed in a manner that will offer significant and tangible economic, environmental, and social benefits. Some recently developed clean technologies are discussed below:
AirBot is an inexpensive, wearable particle counting robot for monitoring airborne pollutants that can cause breathing troubles like asthma. Measurement of airborne particulates can determine the greatest public health hazards associated with air quality. It is pocket-sized, and people can carry it anywhere thereby keeping tabs on airborne particulates that could cause respiratory problems. Six prototype devices have been developed and plans to bring them to market later this year at a price of $99.
WaterBot is a real-time conductivity and temperature sensor, designed for inexpensively and conveniently monitoring well and watershed systems with high spatial density and high temporal frequency. One end of the sensor is dipped into a water source such as a stream or a lake. The sensor then collects data at a high frequency to allow the detection of events that are invisible to other types of sensors. It will finally upload the water purity information to the web through a built-in ZigBee module.
The water quality dataset that has been uploaded to the central server can be instantly seen using the WaterBot viewer. The viewer includes a table for searching sensors by name and a map for searching sensors by geographic location. The viewer also includes a line graph at the top for displaying fluctuations of temperature and conductivity over time. Aimed at a $50 price point, the device is designed for field deployment and can be powered for up to 12 months using one set of batteries.
Spray-on Solar Panels
Transparent solar cells developed by New Energy Technologies consist of light-absorbing nanomaterials that are 10,000 times thinner than a hair strand. Since these solar cells are transparent, they can be sprayed onto any surface like paint. Once scaled-up for commercial use, researchers believe that the ability to spray solar coatings directly onto the New Energy's see-through SolarWindow™, currently under development, could provide significant commercial production benefits over today’s thin-films.
As farmlands are being paved for other purposes, farmers are forced to grow crops in less land. Valcent Products Inc developed a new approach of building croplands vertically like skyscrapers, which solves this problem. The company developed a hydroponic farming system in which the plants grow in rotating rows, one on top of another. This approach ensures that sufficient amount of light falls at the plants and also consumes less water than other conventional farming techniques.
Sage Electrochromics, a green tech company, has developed smart windows based on electrochromism. The windows are made of glass that changes its tint with the application of an electric charge. The degree of tint can be manually adjusted with the flick of a switch, similar to a dimming switch used for lighting at home. This technology is beneficial as it saves energy costs and regulate home heating efficiently.
Recently, MIT researchers developed an energy technology that employs a carbon nanotube for slingshotting electrons to create DC voltage. In addition, they created an alternating current by coating the interior of nanotubes with different minerals thereby providing a way to store energy without converting DC to AC, like rechargeable batteries.
Industrial activities across the globe are endangering the environment and water supplies of the local population. Today, governing bodies are torn between the need to create income by leasing land to industry and the desire to protect their citizens from environmental hazards. Awareness is rapidly growing about the fact that industrial pollution endangers air and water quality in a number of ways. Most of the major economies accept the need for rapid decarbonisation of energy supply to avoid the risk of hazardous climate change.
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Accelerated deployment of clean energy technologies along with new technologies that are clean and affordable is needed. One such technological advancement is a coal-powered car that releases the heat from coal without burning it using clean coal technology. Researchers hope that if this technology could be successfully miniaturized enough to fit into cars, the development of fueling system would not be difficult at all.
Experts believe that clean technologies stand to provide significant relief to shortages in water, energy and other natural resources, while providing a path for both developed and developing countries to address important concerns such as greenhouse gas emissions, resource scarcity, air and water pollution and deforestation. Today's clean-tech revolution is the result of a convergence of environmental, technological, economic, and social factors. However, the success of clean technologies will depend on government investments and policies. The technology will require adequate and reliable research-and-development budgets as well as incentive systems to support cleantech product purchases by businesses and consumers.
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