What are some fancy renewable energy innovations
Innovations: ten bold technology ideas for a green future
Climate change, traffic collapse, hunger crisis: this century may be about ensuring the survival of mankind. And the bigger the problems, the more visionary the solutions have to be. We introduce ten researchers who want to change the world with unusual technologies.
Elon Musk: Traveling in a supersonic train
He made online payments easier with PayPal, made the electric car socially acceptable with the Tesla Roadster and privatized space travel with SpaceX. Next, the US entrepreneur Elon Musk wants to give the world a completely new means of transport that is twice as fast as an airplane and even cheaper.
The express train called Hyperloop, which Musk wants to develop, is a mixture of a Concorde on the ground and a rail cannon. In the latter, a projectile is accelerated by a magnetic field. According to Musk, the super express train could cover the 600-kilometer route from San Francisco to Los Angeles in half an hour.
Even more: the necessary energy could be provided entirely by solar cells along the route. In addition, the construction costs for the route would be six billion dollars - one tenth of the sum that the construction of a planned high-speed train in California is supposed to devour.
Heinrich Bülthoff: With a drone to the office
Cars move in three directions: forward, diagonally sideways, or backward. When there is a traffic jam, they don't drive at all. Another direction would be open to them: upwards. An international research team wants to penetrate precisely this dimension with the EU project Mycopter.
The goal: Air highways on which computer-controlled flying cars fly their passengers to the office - without detours and the corresponding unnecessary energy consumption. The idea is not entirely utopian: the first hybrids between aircraft and car are already on the way, such as the transition model from the US start-up Terrafugia. The Karlsruhe company e-Volo is even working on an electric helicopter that should be able to fly without much practice.
Under the direction of Heinrich Bülthoff, professor at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen, the Mycopter researchers now want to clarify how such aircraft can be further developed into drones for commuters - and how cities and authorities have to adapt to this: which driver's license need self-pilots in the future? How can individual air traffic be directed, how can it be integrated into cities? The researchers want to answer these questions so that flying becomes at least as easy as driving a car.
Eduard Heindl: Turn mountains into batteries
For the complete switch to renewable energies, Germany has to move mountains - literally. At least that's what Eduard Heindl from Furtwangen University suggests. The physicist wants to build an energy storage system out of granite rock that will protrude almost as huge into the landscape as Ayers Rock in Australia.
The plan: Heindl wants to use boring tunnels and rock saws to detach a cylinder from a granite rock, more than 500 meters high and one kilometer wide. Gaps and walls are sealed. Huge pumps, powered by excess electricity from wind turbines and solar cells, are then supposed to push huge amounts of water under the stone column in order to raise it hundreds of meters. If the power grids need energy - for example when there is no wind - water flows off under the pressure of the granite cylinder and drives turbines.
Such a so-called location energy storage facility is expected to cost one billion euros to build and store up to 2000 gigawatt hours of electricity - More than 40 times that of all German pumped storage power plants and more than the whole of Germany consumes in one day.
Matt Watson: Cooling the Earth If humans can clone sheep and move mountains, why not recreate a volcano? That's exactly what Matt Watson did with that SPICE project made to stop global warming.
The scientist from the University of Bristol in the UK wants to imitate the Pinatubo volcano, the eruption of which in 1991 cooled the global climate by half a degree Celsius because its ash cloud already caught the sunlight high in the stratosphere.
Watson now also wants to blow suspended particles into the stratosphere, through a pipe that ends at a giant helium balloon 20 kilometers above the ground. A ship at sea will serve as the ground platform.
The first small-scale test installation was planned for 2012, but the experiment was canceled. Now Watson wants to first develop the idea further in the laboratory.
Yasuyuki Fukumuro: Generating electricity in space
Where is the best place for a solar power plant? In orbit, believes Yasuyuki Fukumuro, head of the Space Solar Power Systems project at Japan's Jaxa space agency. Sunshine day and night, never clouds, the brightest light - these are clear advantages of the location.
He wants to transmit the electricity by microwave beam to a ground station on earth. A study published by the International Academy of Astronautics, the astronauts association, believes the first orbit power plant in 10 to 20 years is feasible.
But whether it will pay off to launch solar cells into space with rockets is still in the stars. In any case, they would have to become considerably lighter - or be produced in space in printers.
Claudio Lenoardi: Airplanes to clip on
Edmund Stoiber, once Bavarian Prime Minister and today EU bureaucratic advisor, caused amusement with the slip of the tongue from Munich Central Station, where you get on the train and then fly to Rome or London. Claudio Leonardi, researcher at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, now wants to make this a reality.
Clip-Air is the name of his concept in which passengers will climb in future into a multifunctional cabin at the train station, roll on rails to the airport and take off there without having to enter the check-in or the duty-free shop again .
Up to three of the 30 meter long cabins would be latched under a special aircraft in the shape of a ray at the airport. Each cabin could carry 150 passengers, as many as an Airbus A320 jet. Freight wagons can also be assembled if necessary.
The suggestion made by product design students at the University of Glasgow goes even further. Your Horizon system consists of an electrically powered glider, which at airports only sinks briefly onto a special runway, latches on to rolling cabs and takes off again straight away. In addition to passengers, the cabins have freshly charged batteries on board for the onward flight. When landing, the cabins disengage and, accelerated by a magnetic drive, roll straight to the next town.
Michael Sterner: Robo-Ships as Power Plants
There are a number of ideas for using the sea as a source of energy. But no concept goes as far as that of Michael Sterner: The professor for energy storage and energy systems at the OTH Regensburg wants to have 100-meter-long, computer-controlled ships cross the North Atlantic in order to generate hydrogen on the way.
As soon as the wind drives the ships forward, integrated turbines are supposed to deliver electricity with the help of the water flow, in order to generate hydrogen by electrolysis. With favorable winds, the ship could store energy in the form of hydrogen in its tanks almost constantly, Sterner believes. Pumped into tanks on land, the energy source could power hydrogen cars, for example.
So-called Flettner rotors, vertical wind turbines, so to speak, are to be used as sails. A ship could generate two megawatts of power, Sterner has calculated. The components are ready - now someone just needs to build the first energy ship.
Edmund Kelly: Floating Solar Power Plants
It is well known that solar power plants work more productively the more often the sun shines over them. Scientists have long been planning huge solar systems in deserts and even in space. The Californian Edmund Kelly and his startup Stratosolar are now working on a new variant: They want to anchor floating solar power plants in the stratosphere.
Balloons filled with thousands of tons of propellant gas are supposed to carry thin solar cells high above the clouds up to a height of 20 kilometers.
Where the sun shines all day, no wind blows and icy air cools the solar systems and makes them even more efficient than on the ground. The electricity from the solar airships, which are theoretically several kilometers in size, should flow to earth via a cable that also serves as an anchorage. Despite the effort, Kelly calculates, thanks to the many hours of sunshine in the stratosphere, electricity could be three times cheaper than that from today's solar systems.
Neil Palmer: Generating electricity from lightning
The earth's atmosphere is full of electric charge. More than three million lightning bolts shine in the sky worldwide every day. A team led by the physicist Neil Palmer from the University of Southampton in the UK and researchers from the Finnish cell phone manufacturer Nokia have investigated whether this energy can be used to operate electrical devices.
In the laboratory, they generated a 200,000 volt lightning bolt, captured its energy with a special receiver and charged a Lumia 925 smartphone with the current surge without destroying the cell phone. In the same way, other researchers want to use huge towers to catch lightning and harvest electricity from the air. But: how it works and whether it is worth it is an open question.
Louis Michaud: Generating electricity from tornadoes
Most people are scared of tornadoes. Louis Michaud, on the other hand, finds them so fascinating that he creates them artificially. Because the retired engineer wants to build power plants with his startup Avetec that generate electricity from tornadoes. To do this, the Canadian wants the warm exhaust air, for example from steel factories or power plants, to flow through a high chimney, in which the air rises in a spiral.
A rotating suction is created in the cooler outside air above the tower, which creates a 40-meter-high tornado. Michaud hopes that its energy can drive a turbine at the bottom of the tower that generates electricity.
In this way, the warm exhaust air from a 500 megawatt coal pile in the tornado tower could generate another 200 megawatts of electricity.
Michaud has already won an important supporter: Peter Thiel, ex-PayPal CEO and number one investor at Facebook, has $ 300,000 allocated to build a prototype.
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