Green your life at home, work & play

Continuing and emerging trends in environmental technologies June 19, 2009

With the green movement gaining momentum, many environmental technologies have become more wide-spread such as solar power, wind energy, and a host of other innovations that will make human existence more sustainable.  Many of the technologies currently offered in the market took years of development and at the time required the assistance of state/federal incentives to make them attractive for consumers.  While there is the potential for existing and increasingly popular technologies to improve environmental quality, there are still many other related technologies that are being developed and are noteworthy.

One technology worth keeping track of is the usage of hydrogen fuel cells.  Hydrogen fuel cells have been considered a pollution free alternative to fossil fuels through a process that combines hydrogen and oxygen to make water in order to generate electricity.  The problem with fuel cells is obtaining the hydrogen.  Molecules such as water and alcohol have to be processed to extract hydrogen to feed into a fuel cell.  Some of these processes require the using of other energy sources, which then defeat the advantages of this “clean” fuel cell.  Most recently, scientists have come up with ways to power laptops and small devices with fuel cells, and some car companies are promising that soon we’ll be seeing cars that emit nothing but clean water.

Another technology is the promise of bioremediation, which uses microbes and plants to clean up contamination. Some examples of bioremediation include the cleanup of nitrates in contaminated water with the help of microbes, and using plants to uptake arsenic from contaminated soil, in a process known as phytoremediation.  The US EPA has used it to clean up several sites.  Often, native plant species can be used for site cleanup, which are advantageous because in most cases they don’t require pesticides or watering.  In other cases, scientists are trying to genetically modify the plants to take up contaminants in their roots and transport it all the way to the leaves for easy harvesting.

A third technology that could offer many advantages is electronic paper (also known as e-paper).  One of many possibilities of electronic paper would be the ability to use read a newspaper in the morning and then using the same paper to read a novel later using a flexible display that looks very much like real paper but can be consistently be reused.  The display contains many tiny microcapsules filled with particles that carry electric charges bonded to steel foil.  Each microcapsule has white and black particles that are associated with either a positive or negative charge.  Depending on which charge is applied; the black or white particles surface displaying different patterns.
Keep abreast of the developments of environmental technologies as time will certainly reveal new trends.


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