Energy expert Prashant Modi is excited about new green energy technology developments in 2014. From a rechargeable battery made out of rhubarb to a device that can charge your cell phone in 20 seconds, 2014 is poised to be the year when the implausible becomes possible.
1. Organic Batteries
Rhubarb is not just something to put in a pie. Harvard University has developed a battery that relies on the electrochemistry of small organic molecules similar to those found in rhubarb. Every energy sector, green or otherwise, is looking for cheap energy. “The organic compounds, called quinones, can be found in green plans or synthesized from crude oil. They are abundant and easy to obtain,” says Modi.
The hope is that this innovation, better than any preceding alternative, could truly reduce a global reliance on fossil fuels. “A safe and economical flow battery could play a huge role in our transition off fossil fuels to renewable electricity. I’m excited that we have a good shot at it,” says lead researcher Michael J. Aziz.
Modi adds, “Flow batteries are charged by chemical components dissolved in fluids. This is a sharp contrast to solid-electrode batteries. The result is a battery that can be at least 10 times more cost efficient.”
2. Human-Powered Helicopter
Back To The Future created a generation waiting for hoverboards. Even though they are still fictional, there now exists an exciting alternative. Canadian startup Aerovelo won the exclusive Sikorsky Prize for their human-powered helicopter Atlas. Obtaining this prize required them to suspend the helicopter at least ten feet above ground for a minimum of 60 seconds. They were confined to a 30 x 30 foot boundary.
Modi loves the idea, saying, “This is hopefully just the beginning for AeroVelo. Just like Amazon’s drone program, we are still years away from this being put into action. That said, it’s exciting. They have changed the way that we think about the possibilities of human-powered energy. Their first flight may have been a small jump in the air, but it was a giant leap for the future of tech.”
3. 20-Second Cell Phone Charger
“Any person with a cell phone should and will be excited to hear about a 20-second charger,” says Modi. Losing charge is a problem anyone with a cell phone faces more than once. Eesha Khare, an 18-year-old from Saratoga, Calif., has invented a device that could wipe away battery bothers with a supercapacitor that can charge your phone in 20 seconds. Her research won her a $50,000 prize in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.
The supercapacitor device holds a lot of energy in a small amount of space and can fit inside cell phone batteries. Even better, it can last for up to 100,000 charge cycles. The conventional battery only lasts for 1,000 charge cycles. The gadget has the ability to completely charge a phone in 20 to 30 seconds. So far, Khare has powered an LED light with it. Modi envisions a far greater use for it, adding, “This is small enough to it incorporated into cell phones and other mobile electronics. The results will mean a green product that reduces energy use.”
4. Solar-Powered Toilet
Three years ago, Bill and Melinda Gates asked the public to invent a better toilet. 2.5 billion people worldwide do not have access to safe and affordable sanitation.