Green technology isn’t just about wind turbines, solar panels and alternative fuel anymore. A few inspiring individuals out there are breaking new ground with innovative ideas that no one’s ever explored before. From a printer that can spit out whole buildings made of stone to an entire city that flips the discomfort of the summer heat into an energy-saving advantage for the wintertime to a company that decided solar panels don’t have to be ugly, heavy or even rectangular. Read on to check out some of our favorite examples of emerging technology in the field of green!
3D printers are nothing new – but how about a printer that can whip up entire life-size stone buildings?! That’s exactly what designer Enrico Dini‘s prototype D-Shape printer does. Instead of ink, the device uses layers of sand, and Dini reports that the process is four times faster than conventional building, costs about one-third to one-half the price of Portland cement, and creates much less waste.
Photovoltaic panels transform the sun’s rays into energy we can use, but they’re bulky and not the most attractive in terms of design. Well one Norwegian company called EnSol AS has cast aside the notion that PVs need to take up extra space — or even be in a solid state. They’ve developed a remarkable new spray-on solar film consisting of metal nanoparticles embedded in a transparent composite matrix that allows you to turn ordinary windows into solar panels. The best part? The spray is clear so you can still see right through your windows!
While other green tech companies look to outside sources like the sun and wind when they think about alternative power, POWERleap decided to completely flip the script by tapping the energy inside – of ourselves! Their piezoelectric floor tiling system that converts the energy from human foot traffic into electricity could be applied to train stations, sidewalks or even inside homes to harness the wasted energy from our footsteps into power for the grid.
Who says photovoltaic panels have to be an eyesore? After all, if they could somehow be integrated as a decorative element on homes and buildings, more people might be willing to install them on more surface area. Well, that’s exactly the approach that Brooklyn-based SMIT (Sustainably Minded Interactive Technology) took with their “Solar Ivy”, a system of paper-thin, leaf-shaped solar panels that generate energy by sparkling in the sunlight. These pretty PVs consist of layers of thin-film material on top of polyethylene with a piezoelectric generator attached to each one, and are definitely miles away from the big, boxy panels we’re used to seeing.
Walking is already one of the greenest forms of transportation but one researcher at Louisiana Tech University thought it could be made even more eco-friendly — so he designed a shoe that converts the wearer’s footsteps into electricity. The piezo power shoe contains a small generator in its sole that can charge batteries or power small electronics. Bet your Nikes can’t do that.
Isn’t it sad that in many parts of the world people use a ton of energy cooling buildings in the summer and then use almost as much power heating up the same spaces just a few months later? It may sound crazy but what if there was a way to save the summer’s hot air and use it to warm buildings throughout the winter? Well some smart thinkers at Honggerberg Campus in Switzerland are doing just that. Their campus, called Science City is installing systems that will allow it to harness natural heat during the warmer months, pump it underground and store it until the winter when it be pushed back up into buildings and act as a heating system. The system is the first of its kind.
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