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Ecofriendly Technologies: Responsible Technological Development

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Technology has become indispensable in the day-to-day life of man. Almost every human activity involves the use of technology for its accomplishment. However, the construction of modern technology requires sourcing raw materials from nature. For example, the ‘Metallic Microlattice’ used in modern shock absorbers is composed of an alloy made of Nickel and Phosphorus. This Nickel is mined from the natural deposits of Nickel on the earth’s surface. Day-by-day, these reserves are getting exhausted and their mining has caused significant destruction of natural resources. Similarly, plastic is resistant to biodegradation and accumulates on the earth’s surface over several years. More than one-third of the world’s plastic is dumped into the oceans each year disrupting the marine ecosystem. With an increased awareness of these devastating effects of technology on nature, more and more initiatives have started manufacturing nature-friendly technologies. Some of the most basic eco-friendly technologies have been discussed in this article.

1. Biofertilizers

Biofertilizers are one of the earliest eco-friendly innovations of mankind. Nitrogen is essential for crops to synthesize essential vitamins, proteins, and nitrogen-containing compounds. Chemical nitrogen-containing fertilizers were earlier used as a source of nitrogen for these crops, which had deleterious effects on the environment. Nowadays, nitrogen-fixing microbes are used in most paddy plantations. One example of nitrogen-fixing microbes is Acetobacter , which is an obligatory aerobic nitrogen-fixing bacterium. This bacterium is used in sugarcane and coffee plantations. It lives in the roots of the plants where it converts atmospheric nitrogen (N2) into ammonia (NH3) which the plant utilizes for the synthesis of some of the most essential proteins. Additionally, the microbe also synthesizes Indole acetic acid and Gibberellic acid which promotes the multiplication of rootlets of the plant facilitating greater absorption of minerals and water.

Examples of companies : Camson Bio Technologies Limited

2. Membrane Bioreactors (MBR technology)

Greywater is household effluent wastewater that does not contain fecal matter. Greywater is different from sewage because of the presence of fecal matter in the latter. This water is generated due to household activities such as the washing of utensils, bathing, cleaning of surfaces, etc. The MBR technology treats this water and makes it compatible for reuse. Conventional water treatment reactors use sand-filters, clarifIers, and chemical disinfection in the last step of water purification. MBR has replaced them with a barrier that incorporates both filtration and biological clarification by microbes. This greatly reduces the size of the bioreactor and the cost of installation.

Examples of companies : Atech Innovations gmbH

3. Biodegradable plastic

Plastics made of biodegradable raw materials, most notably cellulose, are replacing conventional plastics to overpower the durability of conventional plastics in the environment. Only renewable raw materials are used for the synthesis of these plastics. Fillers such as wood flour, lime, clay, or waste paper can be used in various granulation sizes to alter the consistency of the final product. These plastics are used in food packaging, organic waste collection, and disposal, agriculture, and tableware.

Examples of companies : Pond Global

4. Non-emitting vehicle

Such vehicles do not emit hydrocarbons, particulates, carbon monoxide, or carbon dioxide which are the leading environmental pollutants in developing nations. An example is a Hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. These vehicles are powered by hydrogen and only emit water vapor and warm air. Pure hydrogen gas is stored in a tank attached to the vehicle. It takes not more than 4 minutes to fuel these vehicles with this hydrogen and such vehicles can function for over 300 miles. Most fuel cell vehicles incorporate a Polymer Electrolyte Membrane (PEM) which is placed between a positive electrode (cathode) and a negative electrode (anode). The cathode is given access to oxygen in the air and the anode is exposed to hydrogen gas. Due to an electrochemical reaction in the fuel cell catalyst, molecular hydrogen disintegrates into protons and electrons. While the protons travel through the membrane towards the cathode, the electrons are diverted through a circuit where their energy is converted into power for the vehicle before reuniting the protons at the cathode side. At the cathode, the protons, incoming electrons, and oxygen, combine to form water vapor which the vehicle emits. Thus there is no net production of exhaust gases.

Examples of companies : Hyundai Motor Group

5. Hydrothermal carbonization (HTC)

HTC is a relatively new technology that uses moist biomass for its conversion into an energy-dense organized carbon monostructure. The biomass is exposed to temperatures of 180 – 280 degrees under pressure for 5-240 minutes with particular plant material producing a coal-like product called biochar. The energy density of this solid product is greater than the original biomass and can be combusted to produce energy or disposed of as fertilizer. During this process, the carbon segregates into three phases: aqueous phase (rich in nutrients), gaseous phase (carbon dioxide), and solid phase (biochar). By artificially lowering of pH of the total biomass, 99% of the carbon can be diverted into the aqueous phase leaving very little to be released as carbon dioxide. Thus the total CO2 emission gets reduced as opposed to the other methods of carbon degradation that release excessive CO2. The whole process of HTC is exothermic, i.e. energy is released. This energy can be utilized to power other technologies. Meanwhile, the biochar can be used for further generation of energy. This sequestration of carbon has been described as an eco-friendly way to reduce CO2 emissions as the process requires the least energy input and produces denser energy outputs.

Examples of companies : SunCoal

6. Solar tracking systems

Solar energy is a non-exhaustible and sustainable energy source. The main aim of creating any nature-friendly technology is to reduce the usage of exhaustible resources and to produce energy sustainably. Thus man has learned to trap solar energy and convert it into power. A new-age concept called self-sufficient buildings relies entirely on solar energy without the input of energy for other sources. For that purpose, modern buildings have incorporated solar tracking systems into their solar panels. Sunlight has two parts: the direct beam which contains maximum energy and the peripheral, diffuse beam which contains negligible to moderate amount of energy. These trackers scope the direction of sunlight and automatically align the panels in such a way that they will always trap the direct beam creating maximum energy inputs. Although the cost of installation is high, this technology is worth the expense because of its sustainability and efficiency.

Examples of companies : Amberroot

7. Pollutant specific entrapment technology (PSET)

Some companies customize eco-friendly technology for specific industries based on the pollutants they release. The best example is the ‘Tecam Group’. One example of a PSET is Thermal oxidation systems, which are meant to reduce pollution of the environment by Volatile Organic Compounds and other air pollutants. They amalgamate these compounds with oxygen after which they are exposed to high temperatures producing CO2 and H2O.

Tecam group

Article by : Swiftnlift Business Magazine Company

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