Our world is full of high-tech innovations. From smartphones, computers, and entertainment products to extraordinary advances in medicine, science, and countless industries, we’ve all seen how technology can improve lives. But did you know that technology is central to some eco-friendly uses as well? In celebration of Earth Day’s 46th anniversary on Friday, April 22, 2016, we wanted to share some cool innovations we found that could help shape a greener future.
Atomic engineering is not just for semiconductor wafer processing. It’s also an idea that may cut shower water usage by up to 70 percent, just by switching out your old showerhead. One company has engineered a “steam” showerhead that is quite different from standard nozzles. Borrowing technology that shares roots with rocket engines and automobiles, inventors have discovered a way to atomize water, creating a thick mist of tiny water droplets that fill the air and coat the skin. For the user, it’s like stepping into a warm cloud – one that may save thousands of gallons of water a year.
Building vertically isn’t limited to skyscrapers and 3D NAND technology (a three-dimensional memory structure that enables high capacity in a small space). As a solution to the global problem of increasingly limited land available for agriculture, vertical farming reduces the amount of space needed by producing food in stacked layers. This approach uses controlled environment agriculture (CEA) technology, which manages the environmental factors essential to plant growth and helps protect the greens from insects, pesticides, drought, flooding, and disease. This eco-conscious development can potentially help the agriculture economy become more sustainable.
While applications may be limited, researchers from the University of Wisconsin are developing biodegradable chips created from a wood product called cellulose nanofibril. To prevent expansion due to moisture, the wooden material is coated with epoxy. These “green” chips have been tested in wireless communications devices and demonstrated good performance. The researchers have also developed a green alternative to plastic packaging: a wood-based, transparent material called nanocellulose paper. The end result is a chip that is almost fully biodegradable, reducing e-waste.
Most disposable batteries available today aren’t environmentally friendly because they have plastic packaging and some contain lithium, which is considered a heavy metal. However, an award-winning invention – the cardboard capsule battery – replaces the plastic with paper, does not contain heavy metals, and can provide smartphones with up to six hours of energy. The inventor built upon an already popular concept in Asia, the disposable smartphone battery, and designed in green features. While the product itself isn’t completely biodegradable due to the tiny battery within each cardboard capsule, the idea is to return it to the place of purchase (e.g., a convenience store) after it’s used up so it can be recycled.
Looking for ideas on how you can support sustainability efforts? Check out the easy suggestions in our Earth Day 2015 blog.