Every hour the Earth is bathed in 430 quintillion Joules energy from the sun. That’s more than the amount of energy that all of humanity consumes in a full year. These staggering figures show the true innovation potential of solar energy. And the uses of the sun go beyond solar farms and solar panels on household rooftops.
Four innovations this month use the sun as an energy source for applications as varied as urban mobility or water disinfection. A new tiny house is achieving carbon neutrality with built-in solar panels, while an electric tuk-tuk can travel 10,000 kilometers a year on solar power alone. Meanwhile, a clean tech startup has a bold vision to put super-efficient digitally printed solar cells on every consumer device, and a social enterprise has developed a device that allows remote communities to harness the sun’s UV rays to disinfect drinking water.
Elsewhere, a materials science company has produced thermally efficient clothing that can help reduce emissions and home heating and cooling costs, while a route-planning app and website allow travelers easily find the most environmentally friendly and cost-effective way to reach their destination.
A NEW GENERATION OF SELF-POWERED, CARBON-NEUTRAL TINY HOMES
Source of pictures Cosmic
The average American home emits about 6,400 pounds (2,903 kilograms) of carbon dioxide per year according to NRP. In contrast, small houses typically produce about 2,000 pounds (907 kilograms) of annual CO2 emissions. Now US startup Cosmic has produced a tiny house design that it claims is carbon neutral.
The company’s ultra-efficient homes start at just 350 square feet, but they’re loaded with high-tech features that allow them to function as both a primary residence and a retreat. The secret to the design’s success is its standardized frame, which includes integrated solar panels and batteries. Each Tiny House also includes an integrated roof and floor, as well as mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems.
The modular design means the houses can be put together quickly and easily, without the need for construction crews. And because they are optimized to be energy efficient, they can be powered entirely by renewable energy sources. Lithium-ion batteries store the energy from the solar panels, with the ability to send any additional energy generated back to the grid.
SOLAR TUK-TUKS COULD COME TO A CITY NEAR YOU
Source of pictures Infinite mobility
Increasingly, those interested in urban planning and energy conservation are pointing out that it just doesn’t make sense to transport people or small amounts of cargo around urban areas in traditional vehicles – even electric vehicles. Cars are big, heavy and gas-guzzling, and startup Infinite Mobility has developed an alternative: solar-powered tuk-tuks designed for last-mile deliveries or to efficiently transport one or two people.
The design of simplified solar tricycles integrates solar cells into the body of the vehicle. And the vehicles’ small size means they are cheaper to produce and buy than a four-wheeled vehicle. Additionally, tricycles can travel up to 10,000 kilometers per year on solar power alone, which is enough for the average urban user.
Infinite Mobility also points out that tuk-tuks do not need to be recharged from the network, eliminating an inconvenience associated with owning an electric vehicle. And there’s another benefit – depending on where they’re based, many micro-mobility vehicle sales are now supported by grants from local, regional or national governments.
SUPER EFFICIENT SOLAR CELLS ARE DIGITALLY PRINTED TO FIT ANY DEVICE
Source of pictures Perovskia
Clean tech company Perovskia Solar combines inkjet printing with custom design to build solar cells that fit almost any product. Designed for seamless integration into existing devices, Perovskia solar cells perform exceptionally well even in low light conditions.
Perovskite is a calcium titanium oxide mineral which, when applied in a thin film as a semiconductor, converts solar energy into energy very efficiently. Using green nanoparticle inks, Perovskia solar cells are digitally printed in a variety of sizes and shapes to fit smart devices such as wearables, sensors and IoT devices.
As well as being more cost effective than current photovoltaics, the company’s production process is much healthier for the environment – producing far fewer emissions. Perovskia also offers custom designs to help companies create solar cells that technically and visually match their projects.
DISINFECT WATER IN THE SUN
Source of pictures HELIOZ
Worldwide, 1.8 billion people do not have access to drinking water. To avoid water-borne diseases, these people must treat the water available to them before they can drink it. But existing treatment solutions are associated with additional costs, both monetary and environmental. Boiling water, in particular, causes carbon emissions and air pollution.
But there is a way to treat water that results in zero emissions and uses a free resource found everywhere: sunlight. Solar water disinfection (SODIS) is a process by which the sun’s natural UV rays remove pathogens, such as bacteria, viruses and protazoa, from contaminated water exposed to the sun. The difficulty is knowing when contaminated water has been exposed long enough for UV rays to make it safe.
This is where the Austrian social enterprise HELIOZ comes in. The organization has developed the WADI – a device that visualizes the process of SODIS in water containers such as plastic and glass bottles. The WADI device, which can measure UV light, is placed next to bottles of contaminated water exposed to the sun, so that it receives the same dose of UV rays. It can then be used to measure when bottles have received sufficient exposure to make them safe – defined as 99.99% pathogen removal.
THERMAL EFFICIENCY T-SHIRTS REDUCE THE NEED FOR HEATING AND COOLING
Source of pictures Parker Burchfield on Unsplash
In the USA, 38% of greenhouse gas emissions residential housing is produced as a result of heating and cooling of rooms. In response, materials science company LifeLabs has developed a new generation of thermally efficient textiles.
Wearers of the company’s CoolLife t-shirt experience a continuous reduction in body temperature of three degrees Fahrenheit, while the WarmLife jacket is considered one of the warmest in the world. The CoolLife and WarmLife ranges can help reduce reliance on cooling and heating systems, both of which contribute significant amounts of emissions. For example, continuous cooling of three degrees of body heat can make a huge difference throughout the day and night, making it easier to target the use of HVAC systems for limited durations.
LifeLabs in-house manufacturing technology saves water, heat, steam, chemicals and plastic. The brand’s initial product line is 74% recycled by fabric weight, and manufacturing improvements have reduced water consumption by 70%.
ROUTE PLANNING FOR GREEN AND ECONOMIC TRAVEL
Source of pictures Stefano Lombardo on Unsplash
While most people know that flying uses far more carbon than other forms of public transport, they are probably less aware of the emissions/cost ratio of other modes of transport. To make matters more confusing, at least in Europe, it is often difficult to book train tickets in advance when traveling through more than two countries, or to compare shows on different services and routes.
To clear up this confusion, startup Green Tickets has developed an app and website that allows users to rank transport options based on travel time, price and CO2 emissions. The company’s aim is both to make booking a bus or train ticket as easy as booking a plane ticket, and to provide transparency on emissions in a way that helps people to make more informed decisions.
To compile its data, Green Tickets uses a variety of sources, including Google Maps for driving directions, open source projects for European trains, and Skyscanner’s back office for flight information. The data allows users to quickly find the optimal route for each trip, based on time of year, availability, budget, carbon emissions and personal preference.
Springwise is the world’s leading innovation intelligence platform for positive and lasting change. Over the past 20 years, he has discovered and curated the most innovative thinking and ideas on the planet. Today, with a library of over 11,000 global innovations, Springwise is recognized by thought leaders, entrepreneurs, investors, educators and tech disruptors as the leading source for inspiring ideas that matter. Springwise.com
© Faversham House Ltd 2022 edie news articles may be copied or transmitted for individual use only. No other reproduction or distribution is permitted without prior written permission.