Take a look around. So much of the technology we use would have been considered part of the sci-fi realm about two decades ago. Thousands of books or hundreds of movies can all fit on a computer that slips easily into a backpack or jacket pocket. Humanity can manipulate and alter a genome, leading to amazing advances in medicine and industry. Technology has improved our lives in innumerable ways. The question is, however, is it doing the same for the planet?
Modern technology applies the newest developments in environmental science to conserve and reduce the negative impact of human involvement in our natural environment. Here are three of the major ways technology helps us consume less and lighten our environmental footprints:
The ocean covers more than half of the planet. As a matter of fact, it covers about three-fourths, and offers an abundance of technological resources to help our environment. Scientists have recently started working on trying to harness the power of waves and tides through the use of underwater turbines. Turbines, unlike other resources, are more powerful and will soon have the ability to generate half the amount of energy that is currently produced by dams.
The seven oceans are the biggest natural solar collectors on the planet, and according to the U.S. Department of Energy, they absorb enough humidity from the sun to equal the thermal energy contained in 250 billion barrels of oil each day. A new piece of technology researchers will also be working on is called Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC). This is a process that involves converting thermal energy into electricity by relying on energy stored in the water.
Desalination, which includes removing excess salt and minerals out of seawater and making it drinkable has also become a project scientists are focusing on. However, due to the large amount of energy and infrastructure needed for this task, along with the negative impact on marine life, new technologies are currently being created to make this process less expensive and more eco-friendly. Meaning that homeowners will be able to conserve water and save money on their utility bills by using recycled water in their showers, garden hose, and swimming pools minimizing the amount of water being wasted. By way of example, forward osmosis, solar desalination, geothermal desalination and freeze-thaw desalination are all methods being tested by researchers to help remove excessive amount of salt and minerals from seawater.
One of the most difficult tasks today is developing a new clean coal or Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology that help keep the environment clean. For starters, perhaps the greatest challenge facing producers of clean coal are reducing the amount of carbon emission from burning coal and bringing down the cost as much as possible in order to compete with nuclear power. The process, however, is easier said than done. New clean coal technologies, for instance, includes using the coal to make hydrogen water, burying the carbon dioxide, and more importantly, burning the hydrogen. Scientist are also trying to figure out ways to beneficially reuse carbon dioxide.
Hybrid vehicles, for example, are becoming more powerful, more affordable, and more energy efficient. These vehicles also use less fuel, thereby cutting carbon dioxide emissions and reducing air pollution by up to 90%. The future of hybrid cars includes the use of green diesel fuel, plug-in stations, hydraulic hybrids, and hydrogen hybrids. In addition to this, more cities have also begun to implement the use of hybrid city buses, and trash trucks.
The survival of our planet is dependent on a well-balanced ecosystem that’s for sure. But the more we destroy the habitats of the plants and animals, the more our ecosystem is thrown off balance. Scanning landmass with ground penetrating radar to identify environmental waste is just one small step towards resolving a big issue. Instead, scientists are currently addressing the issue of deforestation through the use of robotics in the rainforest. These robots, commonly known as “tree-bots,” are individual nodes in a Networked Informehcnical System (NIMS) and used to monitor the growth process of trees and plants. It’s also programed to detect carbon dioxide changes and report data to scientists which allows them to predict how climate changes will affect life on Earth.
As a final point, modern technology allows instant access to information and the globalization of resources around the world, creating a better way of life that will continue to help the environment indefinitely. The smallest changes can result in a brighter day, and healthier tomorrow.