Sustainable Innovations you should know about!

Written by Maja Bartczak
Posted on 05/03/2022

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There is not only one way to address climate change. We need multiple tools to address the complexities and nuances of the climate change phenomenon. Whereas living sustainably is one element of the fight, we need other solutions, mostly technologies, to help us to address issues such as the extraction of CO2 from the atmosphere, or the issue of recycling parts of renewable energy technologies.

Recycling Wind Turbines Blades

In May 2021, Vestas, a company that builds wind turbines, unveiled its new technology that allows for full recycling of wind turbines. While wind turbines are already recyclable in 85-90%, this new technology would make turbines fully sustainable throughout their life cycle. This would not only make wind turbines even more sustainable, but it would also avoid dumping old blades which are to account for 43 million tons of waste by 2050. This technology comes in the perfect time as manufacturing of wind turbines is increasing globally due to the need to produce energy more sustainably. A short video by Vestas explains perfectly how the technology works. The turbines are built by heating a mix of glass or carbon fibres and sticky epoxy resin. This process creates a light-weight composite material, but at the same time it makes it harder to separate the virgin materials for recycling. The new technology separates carbon/glass from the resin, which is further separated chemically into base materials. The base materials are similar to the virgin materials which means that they can be used again for new blades.

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Perovskite cells

Perovskite cells’ key feature is that they absorb a great amount of light, making their application varied and quite easy. Even a very thin layer of perovskites is able to absorb light which potentially reduces the consumption of materials necessary to produce a solar cell by 3 times. Saule company produces thin and flexible perovskite cells. The produced cells have a variety of applications, among other things, BAPV (Building Applied Photovoltaics) and animal tracking! In the building sector, thin, flexible perovskites cells can be placed between layers of glass allowing the building’s windows to absorb energy. This technology was launched as a pilot in 2018 on the Spark building in Warsaw. More recently, Saule started producing blinds (sun breakers) with perovskite cells which produce energy from solar illumination. But, what is even more interesting, the company has joined its forces with WWF to develop animal trackers with printed perovskite cells on them. Because of thin and flexible properties, perovskites can be printed on flexible substrates, such as the ones used in animal tracking. Perovskite cells would eliminate the use of batteries in the trackers. They have also been proved to be more resistant to sustain a variety of conditions of an outside environment. So, the use of perovskite cells in animal tracking would not only sustain the harsh conditions, but also create the possibility of animal tracking and data collection for a lifetime!

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Turning CO2 into a solid carbon

Just last month, a paper was published in Energy & Environmental sciences, in which Australian researchers demonstrate how it is possible to turn CO2 into a solid carbon. This technology allows for converting captured CO2 into a permanent solid carbon. By doing so, it reduces CO2 emissions and delivers value-added reutilisation of carbon. Unlike the Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), turning CO2 into a solid matter avoids risks of potential leakages and locks the carbon away securely and indefinitely. The process, in simple terms, is described as follows: “Carbon dioxide is injected into the liquid metal, with the gas bubbles rising up just like bubbles in a champagne glass. As the bubbles move through the liquid metal, the gas molecule splits up to form flakes of solid carbon, with the reaction taking just a split second.”

Because the process does not require very high temperatures, it is possible to power it with renewable energy.

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