Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Best Green Tech Innovations of 2010

Recently Popular Science released its list of the six top Green Tech innovations of 2010, which run the gamut from low to high tech sophistication. These innovations directly benefit the planet or are better for the environment than the technologies they intend to replace.

1. The Groasis Waterboxx

The Groasis Waterboxx was the best new innovation of the year. The innovation is an irrigation-free plant incubator that could help make arid lands fertile. Deforestation and over-farming have helped decrease the productivity of about 70 percent of the world’s arid and semi-arid lands, this could displace 50 million people by 2017.

However, even arid places have enough water, if the roots can access the moist soil beneath the surface. This innovation helps plants to survive long enough to be able to get their roots down to where they can find water.

The Waterbox is a donut shaped tub that is placed around a freshly planted seedling. The evaporation-proof basin is filled with four gallons of water and it supplements this water with condensation. The tub drips about three tablespoons of water a day into the soil, sustaining the plant while encouraging its roots to grow deeper in search of more water. After about one year, the plant reaches the moist soil layer, and the box can be removed and reused on the next sapling. Each Waterboxx is expected to last 10 years.

In tests in the Sahara, 88 percent of Waterboxx-sheltered trees survived, versus 10 percent of trees with traditional cultivation. The inventor is now working on a biodegradable version that decomposes and feeds the developing tree. One of the factors that gives this innovation widespread applicability is its low price of $27 per box. Each box can grow 10 trees in its lifetime, translating to a cost of $2.70 per tree, making it affordable even in poorer nations.

2. Philips EnduraLED

Philips EnduraLED bulb is far more efficient than traditional light bulbs and it is even more efficient than compact florescent light bulbs. This LED produces the same amount of light as a 60-watt incandescent using just 12 watts. The EnduraLED’s produce a warm, white glow. The bulb lasts approximately 25 times as long as an incandescent and energy savings cover the cost in about four years. Its efficiency is similar to compact fluorescent lights, but without the mercury. It retails for about $40.

3. ecoATM

Only 3 percent of cellphones worldwide get recycled; the rest end up leaking toxic metals into landfills. Now ecoATM has the first phone-recycling kiosk. To identify the phone’s model, it visually scans the phone’s exterior and compares the images with an ecoATM-maintained database of 4,000-plus mint-condition handsets. It also tests the phone’s electronics and looks for cracked LCDs and cosmetic damage. The kiosk erases the phone's data as well as payout cash based on the phone's resale value. The first 10 ecoATMs have already recycled 33,000 phones, at an average payout of $9 per handset. The company plans to roll out 500 more kiosks next year and expand to other portable electronics.

4. AMEE Explorer

AMEE. Explorer is the world's smartest carbon calculator. Three years ago, AMEE, a carbon-data company, made the best and most sophisticated programming tool aggregating thousands of previously incompatible data sources and environmental models. Now AMEE has added the free, user-friendly Web site Explorer.

5. Calera

Coal and natural-gas power plants are one of the largest man-made sources of carbon dioxide. But by paying to build a Calera facility, a plant can trap about 70 percent of the CO2 emissions coming out of their smokestack while producing and selling construction materials. Calera’s process combines the CO2 with calcium from underground brine or seawater to produce calcium carbonate, which can act as a cement. Calera has had a demonstration plant that has been running since 2009 and this year it began planning the first commercial facility.

6. Neah Power Infinity eL

Neah Power’s direct-methanol fuel cells are lighter, greener batteries that are also less expensive than other fuel cells. Its novel silicon-based electrode has 40 times as much surface area as most fuel cells, producing more charge while using less platinum catalyst. This fall, Neah introduced Infinity eL, its demo product line. The company commonly tailors its tech to specific applications, however, Neah cells could replace current lithium-ion batteries, including those found in electric-cars and laptops.

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