According to the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 70 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions must be cut by 2050 and must be cut to almost zero by 2100 to avoiding warming levels that will sink cities, cause mass extinctions, and create widespread droughts.
Below are some of the new advances that could help us achieve this.
Before we can begin to reach our best capacity as a world that runs on renewable resources, we need to first replace gasoline and other transportation fuels with a clean liquid fuel. Meet artificial photosynthesis, the Harvard based project of Daniel Nocera and Pamela Silver that uses solar energy to split water molecules and hydrogen-eating bacteria to produce liquid fuels. A self-healing system, it is truly renewable from beginning to end. According to MIT Technology Review, the system captures and converts 10 percent of the energy in sunlight. Basically, it’s 10 time better than the average photosynthesis of your average plant.
In a breakthrough in solar panel technology, MIT scientist may one day be able to make solar panels 80% efficient rather than the 30% efficient they are now. By adding an intermediate component made up of carbon nanotubes and nanophotonic crystals that together function sort of like a funnel, it collects energy from the sun by concentrating it in a narrow band of light. Since it operates from heat instead of just direct UV rays from the sun, it could eventually create power even after the sun has gone down. This would give us solar power throughout the day and night.
Perovskite Solar Cells
Perovskite solar cells are a thin film of material that captures as much light as thick layers of silicon used in standard solar cells in use today. It’s cheap and easy to produce. Most importantly, it’s durable unlike the standard solar cells that tend to degrade quickly especially when exposed to consistently wet or hot conditions. Research groups the world over have been successful in boosting the efficiency of perovskite solar cells and hope to one day replace the widely used silicon solar panels.
Electricity generation from coal is considered responsible for producing 30% of the nation’s carbon dioxide. The project out of Iceland, CarbFix Project, may have a fix to capture this greenhouse gas and turn it into stone. A relatively new venture by Reykjavik Energy company, they have been injecting carbon dioxide and water deep underground to react with the volcanic basalt rocks that scatter Iceland. While it has shown to mineralize 95% percent of the carbon dioxide in less than two years, it is still unknown if there are any negative environmental effects or if it will work in other areas.