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Thursday, July 26, 2007

top 10 emerging environmental technologies

Top 10 Emerging Environmental Technologies

The list of "Top 10" emerging environmental technologies comes from The commentary is mine.

10. Electronic paper
It's just like paper, but you can use it over and over again, thanks to teeny microcapsules filled with whilte or black particles to "print" your articles and stuff. This strikes me as "cool, neat" but of little practical value to anyone except those nostalgic for tangible paper. If I want to read the paper, I read it on my laptop. Though, with 55 million papers sold everyday in the US, electronic paper would definitely save a few trees.

9. Burying Carbon Dioxide
Remember back when you were little and you tried to make yourself a yummy sandwich and you accidentally spill some crumbs and make a mess? And, being young and immature, rather than actually cleaning up the mess you made, you simply swept it under the rug, hoping that time would make it "go away"? Similar concept here only instead of sandwich crumbs we're spilling carbon dioxide gas. And rather than cleaning up the mess or addressing the cause of the mess, we're looking for ways to sweep the crumbs under the rug and hope that time will make it "go away".

8. Let Plants and Microbes Clean Up After Us
Another interesting innovation in environmental clean up., phytoremediation has already been used successfully in remediating arsenic contaminated sites. Seems a little unfair to the plants and microbes, who otherwise might just be chilling.

7. Plant Your Roof
Planting greenery and gardens on rooftops can help keep your home cool and help insulate the interior, while simultaneously adding oxygen and taking away carbon dioxide from the air. Aside from taking away rooftop space from your solar cells, I don't see one thing wrong with idea, except that it doesn't strike me as an emerging technology so much as a really ancient one.

6. Harness Waves and Tides
Now THIS is what I consider an emerging environmental technology. As anyone who has been pummelled by a wave, there is tremendous power there. And since ocean covers 70% of our planet, learning to harness wave power could well be a perfect renewable energy source.

5. Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion
Another innovative idea, using the natural temperature differentials at the ocean surface and at the ocean's floor to drive generators and create energy. I don't know the scientific mumbo-jumbology for this but it would be extra super cool because this technology would harness the energy in temperature differences, as opposed to harnessing energy already in motion (like wind). GoooOOOO thermal energy conversion!

4. Sunny New Ideas
This concept takes solar energy technology one step further. By focusing photons from the sun using mirrors and parabolic dishes, solar energy output can be increased. The sunny state of California is jumping on the sunshine bandwagon by providing incentives for new solar technology initiatives. However, the even sunnier state of Arizona has yet to make solar energy any kind of priority as its constituency (consisting mostly of old folks I guess) have deemed solar panels as unsightly to the aesthetics of their planned communities. (snicker) This is one of several thousand reasons why California is better than Arizona. But that's another post entirely.

3. H Power
Hydrogen. That's all I've got to say about that because I know zero about hydrogen power. except that it has potential. When this technology grows in the future (as it should and it will), it'll be huge.

2. Remove the Salt
Present day desalination processes are imperfect and use tons of energy to bring potable water to corners of the earth that don't have it. Obviously we need to improve this technology, which has been around forever. Why isn't desalination technology better developed by now? Oh right, because providing the basic necessities of life to impoverished people in third world countries isn't a huge moneymaker.

1. Make Oil From Just About Anything
Through thermo-depolymerization, you can turn any carbon based waste into oil. The process is similar (apparently) to the way nature makes oil: carbon based waste + pressure + heat = oil! According to this site, a ton of turkey "waste" can produce 600 pounds of petroleum. Which is kinda cool given that you don't have to drill for it but would still wreak havoc on the atmosphere don't you think?

So what can we learn from this list?
- people will try to convince you that just about anything is "emerging technology";
- "environmental technologies" is too broadly defined to be a useful term- covering up old issues or sustaining present ones can hardly be defined as "environmental";

- that you really only need to look at the top half of any "top ten" list.

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