There is no denying that we are running out of fossil fuels, such as coal and gas. These fuel sources are not able to be replenished once they run out. Renewable energy is where we can harness different forces in nature to produce energy. Sources like wind and solar will not run out, and as long as technology can harness them efficiently, they are the best way to obtain energy that doesn’t destroy the natural environment.
Renewable energy and interest in the area are on the rise, due to ongoing concern for the environment, and the rate at which the world is heading towards a future where our resources run out. Today, we’ve compiled a list of 8 of the most interesting breakthroughs in renewable energy over the past few years.
1. Decreasing cost of solar
Owning home solar is now more affordable than ever, especially in Australia, where we have generous subsidies for owning and installing solar in the home. The cost of these products and services has decreased considerably over the years, which means more people can now afford to have their own solar systems.
2. Iceland deep drilling project
Iceland’s deep drilling project has been ongoing since 2010, in the country of Iceland. As the name suggests, the project is concerned with drilling deep into the surface of the Earth. This drilling is designed to see whether the hot, hydrothermal systems, deep within the Earth can be harnessed to produce energy for use elsewhere. Initial findings from the project are hopeful, with the first experiments being completed in 2010.
3. Super fast solar
In a breakthrough from the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, scientists have discovered a new catalyst for solar energy that transforms solar into energy 100 times faster than the solar of today. Using iridium oxide in combination with strontium iridium oxide makes the catalyst far more effective than what is currently used. This could help us to make solar production more efficient, if taken up on a large scale.
4. Carbon dioxide into ethanol
Ethanol is a fuel that is used in a lot of applications across the world. Carbon dioxide is the greenhouse gas that we are trying to reduce emissions of. In 2014, researchers made the discovery that carbon dioxide can be turned into ethanol using a combination of copper, nitrogen, and carbon as a catalyst. This is a brilliant and interesting breakthrough that could see widespread application.
5. 24M Lithium Ion batteries
The relatively new company, 24M, is a battery company that are revolutionising the battery game with the invention of their new lithium-ion battery that eliminates waste in production, decreases cost, and speeds production, too. This new form of affordable storage is a great alternative to the regular lithium ion batteries of today which can be very expensive. The company calls the product a semisolid lithium ion battery, and the design and production are by a team of battery experts and scientists, with major backing from investors.
6. Blue energy
Blue energy is the use of osmosis (movement of solvent molecules through a semi-permeable membrane) to produce energy. While blue energy is not new, the levels of energy produced were not useful enough, however, a new prototype for an osmosis power plant from researchers in Switzerland and the US shows the potential for a great deal of energy to be produced from a small system using single layer MoS2 nanopores.
7. Tesla batteries
Tesla’s home Powerwall battery has been a revolution for the home solar market. The Powerwall battery is hooked up to a home solar system which can then store unused energy for use later. Prior to these type of battery systems being introduced, solar energy was not able to be stored for use, only used to power the home at the time of capture.
8. Solar powered flight
Solar powered flight? It might not be as crazy as it sounds. Planes use a tremendous amount of fuel to power them – fuel that is made from non-renewable sources. The Solar Impulse 2 was a project involving scientists and pilots that managed to fly a purely solar powered plane across the Pacific Ocean. Although only a scientific mission, this could signal the start of a push towards using renewable or a combination of renewable and non-renewable energy on commercial flights.
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