Boeing has just done a test flight for their new 787 Dreamliner. I usually don’t fawn over a big corporation’s newest product launch, but this one is a highlight for efficiency. It is mostly made from carbon fiber composites and titanium, uses more efficient engines and should save an airline 20% on fuel costs.These fuel savings will constitute huge reductions on greenhouse gas emissions since flight is one of the most CO2 intensive activities one can pursue. A couple percent savings with the largest wasters can have a bigger effect than a huge savings in less wasteful sectors.
Amory Lovins of RMI has presented evidence linking energy efficiency with improved profits at some major corporations. There are now sustainability MBA programs at institutions like the Presidio College that are training the next generation of managers and executives. This profit oriented demographic will uses their newly acquired efficiency paradigms to drive the more forward thinking corporations towards sustainability as a competitive strategy. And being less competitive will quickly drive the other corporations towards efficiency. As Lovins says, “We will change their minds or their managers.”
Companies like FiberForge will be cranking out the new ultra-light, ultra-strong materials to meet an ever rising demand. A concept I would find conceptually appealing would be generating some of those carbon fibers from CO2 emissions. To sequester carbon within the industrial materials that will reduce the CO2 emissions has a kind of intellectual symmetry that is very satisfying.
image via Transmaterial
Scientists have invented a material that converts absorbed heat into energy without pollution. The average car engine wastes up to 60% of the power it produces in the form of waste heat and uses only 25% of it’s energy to actually power the car.
Dr. Joseph Heremans of Ohio State University has recently developed a thermoelectric material that outperforms the previous leader by 2:1. Entitled thallium-doped lead telluride, the material promises to make cars and other engines more efficient by capturing waste heat without the use of moving parts. Moreover, it operates best between 450 and 950 degrees Fahrenheit, which is a typical temperature range for such engines.
According to Heremans, “The material does all the work. It produces electrical power just like conventional heat engines – steam engines, gas or diesel engines – that are coupled to electrical generators, but it uses electrons as the working fluids instead of water or gases, and makes electricity directly.” “
Scientist at MIT have a created a thin film coating for windows that lets light pass through but still can generate electricity. Made of organic dyes, light energy is transmitted to the edges of the windows were it is collected by solar panels. Because the window acts as a light gatherer, concentrating the energy, less photovoltaic material is need helping to bring down the total cost. And it produces 10 times more power than current solar energy methods.