Following the discovery of man made climate change, and the revelation of the many ways humanity has altered the earth's environment, it's easy to feel hopeless.
But, flying against this gloomy current, a breath of fresh air has blown through the global technology industry, leading to the development of some potentially future-saving new innovations. Today we'll be looking at three projects which could help win the war on climate change, and ensure a brighter future for the planet.
1: Molten Salt Storage
It may sound unlikely, but the solution to one of renewable energy's most persistent problems might lie in the humble grain of table salt, or, to be precise, in table salt heated to melting point. The technology addresses one of the key shortcomings of solar and wind power: consistency. It's not always windy or sunny, which means power is not always available, and if it is windy or sunny, then excess energy is wasted.
This is where the salt comes in: by using excess energy produced on windy and sunny days to heat salt to melting point. Salt's exceptional insulating qualities mean that it retains this heat, which can be used to power steam turbines when the sun is down and the air is still. Developing this kind of energy storage technology is key to exploiting the possibilities of renewable energy, which means that, despite its relatively low-tech nature, molten salt could have a huge impact on our energy dilemma.
2: Carbon-negative Concrete
Concrete is all around us, in the foundations of our homes and offices, beneath the roads we drive on, in the pavements we walk. The production of concrete releases huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, which has lead to a race to develop a green alternative.
It looks like that race might be about to be won by British company Novacem, who have developed a new concrete making techniquewhich could turn the entire industry upside down. Concrete pollutes because of the carbon stored in limestone, which is released during the concrete-making process. By substituting limestone with magnesium silicates, which contain no carbon, the researchers at Novacem have created a concrete which not only releases no carbon, but which can actually trap carbon from the atmosphere during the hardening process, resulting in carbon-negative concrete.
Novacem have yet to bring their new concrete mix to market, so watch this space for more news on this fascinating development.
3: Waste to Energy
One of the things that keeps most environmentally-conscious people awake at night is landfills. All over the world, in every country, heaps of rubbish are slowly rotting, releasing carbon into the air and polluting water and soil with noxious chemicals.
Thankfully, this is the area where some of the brightest minds in tech have been concentrating hardest, and we are on the verge of some potentially planet-saving breakthroughs. From specialised algae bred to eat and process methane-rich compounds and break down floating rubbish to robotic drones designed to tunnel into landfill and convert the waste they find into biofuels, a huge range of sci-fi style technologies could soon transform our landfills from a lurking menace to a valuable resource, and allow us to go back in time and recycle the waste of years gone by.
So there we have it. Despite the undeniable threat to the earth posed by humanity's recklessness, there may yet be a way for us to make up for the environmental sins of the past.