2023’s Key Environmental Technologies & Innovations
Green technology has experienced rapid expansion as consumer awareness of their impact on the environment grows. Consumer demands and climate activism such as documentaries by David Attenborough, protests by Extinction Rebellion and numerous speeches given by Greta Thunberg are prompting businesses to adopt greener operations.
Scientists are making great strides towards combatting environmental degradation. Here are six innovative technologies to keep an eye on in 2023:
Also check out our post on the Green Building Revolution
Direct Air Capture
Environmental technologies are in great demand around the globe as more countries look for solutions that reduce resource consumption, waste production and promote sustainability. Environmental technology covers an expansive field that encompasses energy-saving devices, sustainable agricultural practices and carbon dioxide capture techniques – just to name a few innovations that fall under its purview.
Direct Air Capture (DAC), which relies on chemical reactions that extract CO2 from the atmosphere and store it permanently underground, is an exciting technology with great promise. 18 such plants currently exist around the world with one located in Iceland owned and run by Climeworks with an annual capacity of around 4,000 tons CO2/yr; their company also plans on building one million-tonne capacity plant soon.
However, many DAC plants are still in research phase with various companies exploring various methods for extracting CO2 from ambient air. One common technique involves spraying the air with chemicals designed to selectively react with CO2, while allowing other gases through. After heating this mixture to release carbon from its bonds, the resultant gas can then be captured, stored and utilized for various applications.
Current DAC systems utilize liquid solvents or solid sorbents and require significant energy to operate; however, technology in this sector is rapidly advancing thanks to start-ups and investors putting hundreds of millions into it. Liquid solvents may soon be replaced with lower energy alternatives while sorbents designed for easy recycling may help power energy-intensive separation processes more effectively. Renewable energies could even power such separation processes.
As well as technological obstacles, there will also be numerous social and political hurdles to be surmounted. Some groups are concerned about environmental justice implications of carbon removal development – particularly its effect on low-income communities near facilities with heavy emissions – while others fear carbon removal development will distract from efforts to cut emissions as much as possible in the first place.
No matter these challenges, climate scientists agree on one thing: carbon capture and storage (DAC) must be part of any plan to limit global warming to safe levels. According to estimates by the International Panel on Climate Change, we will need to remove and store roughly 750 billion tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere before dangerously high temperatures emerge; with its small land footprint DAC could play an integral role in reaching this goal, providing scale flexibility as well as siting flexibility benefits.
Scientists have proposed that, if we cannot reduce heat-trapping gases by cutting fossil fuel use, “solar geoengineering” technologies that could cool our planet could help. Such measures would involve reflecting some of the sun’s energy back into space by altering clouds or placing mirrors in orbit – though its effectiveness remains undetermined and its possible ramifications on climate systems remains unknown at this stage.
In March, the US National Academies issued their most explicit call from any scientific body to date for a coordinated government research program on solar geoengineering, calling for comprehensive scientific reviews as well as engagement with those affected by climate change and discussions of governance mechanisms. They further recommended any outdoor experiments be carried out transparently with independent governance structures in partnership with climate-vulnerable communities.
Concerns have been expressed that changing our planet’s thermostat could have unintended and unexpected repercussions, including altering rainfall patterns and shifting monsoons with some regions benefitting while others suffer. Uneven effects could even lead to conflict if effects were distributed unevenly as seen when volcanoes erupted in the past.
One potential solar geoengineering option that may become available in the near future is stratospheric aerosol injection, which involves injecting sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere to reflect sunlight and lower global temperatures – similar to how volcanic eruptions release sulphur dioxide particles into the air, temporarily cooling Earth for some period.
Sulphur dioxide can be toxic for humans and animals alike, remaining in the air months after an eruption has concluded. Furthermore, its emissions have been linked to ocean acidification and ozone depletion – therefore carbon capture and storage (CCS) systems offer more sustainable solutions by segregating carbon dioxide emissions at high emission sites such as power plants or cement manufacturing facilities before transporting it underground rock formations for long-term storage – CCS technology can significantly lower industrial emissions by up to 90%!
As many nations seek to reduce carbon emissions, electric vehicle usage has become an increasing priority. Major carmakers such as General Motors have already announced their intent to transition toward all-electric cars by 2025; London Mayor Sadiq Khan also set this target.
Electric vehicles (EVs) offer an effective solution to air pollution because they do not produce harmful emissions from their wheels. Furthermore, their reduced energy consumption means reduced fuel costs; furthermore they’re quieter than traditional cars, which is ideal for urban environments where noise pollution may be an issue.
Another major advantage is that most EV charging electricity comes from renewable sources like wind and solar, providing a significant step up from traditional power plants which rely on burning fossil fuels as their source.
However, there remain some environmental impacts of EVs which should be taken into consideration. Batteries manufactured in China typically have an extensive carbon footprint; research is ongoing to improve battery technology to make it more environmentally sustainable. It is also essential that more renewable energy enters the grid while coal generation decreases.
Green technology may seem like the new kid on the block, but it has an extensive history you might be surprised to know about. Green tech offers us an effective means of mitigating environmental impact while rapidly developing. In 2023 it will become even more critical that we use our resources responsibly while innovating to minimize our environmental footprint.
Environmental technology and innovation covers an exciting variety of areas where you can get involved, such as nuclear chemistry, adsorption, and environmental chemistry. Furthermore, understanding how these technologies come together to create a more sustainable world is also crucial – be sure to check out Environmental Technology and Innovation journal regularly for all the latest updates in this space.
Carbon Dioxide Capture
Global climate change requires urgent action to drastically decrease greenhouse gas emissions. One approach involves renewable energy technologies; another could involve sucking carbon pollution directly out of the air using direct air capture technology – this may significantly help slow climate change.
Scientists have devised multiple techniques to extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and permanently store it away, including carbon capture and storage (CCS), where industrial processes remove CO2 for storage underground; solar geoengineering uses particles in the atmosphere to block sunlight to prevent further warming; however these solutions may prove too costly and insufficient for making significant differences.
Industrial companies looking to reduce emissions from fossil fuels are turning towards environmental technologies to become more sustainable and reduce their overall carbon footprint. CO2 Solutions, for example, uses enzymes to effectively remove carbon dioxide from industrial waste gases – this process is both more eco-friendly and costs less than the more traditional approaches which utilize amine-based solvents; additionally it doesn’t involve heating energy-wasting solvents which is wasted with traditional methods.
Climeworks, for example, has created a machine capable of sucking carbon dioxide out of the air directly – although still in prototype stages – which could have an enormously positive impact on climate change when fully realized.
Current CCS projects number 26 operational ones and 13 in advanced development reaching front-end engineering design; most are located in the US while China and Australia also boast several projects. Industrial processes that utilize CCS include coal gasification, ethanol production, fertilizer production, natural gas processing, power generation as well as enhanced oil recovery using carbon dioxide to force more crude out of depleted reservoirs.
Cost savings offered by environmental technologies is fueling market expansion and creating demand for more eco-friendly products. As populations across the globe increase, more individuals need access to affordable energy which reduces emissions for a more sustainable world. There is an array of eco-friendly innovations helping reduce greenhouse gases, provide cleaner transportation options and offer greater quality of life for all.