As markets for green and sustainable solutions promote a more eco-friendly economy, they radically transform industries and create downstream opportunities for forward-thinking businesses. Check-in on the status of some of the most technically viable and impactful green technologies currently on the market. Each of these examples serves as a reminder of the innovative potential unleashed by tools that can provide deep insight and competitive analytics on the latest technologies.
Modern agriculture is a massive source of carbon and ecosystem-destroying activity. Artificial fertilizers, robotic equipment, and irrigation systems drying up ancient water sources are all culprits. The much-publicized (and politicized) bovine gas expiration—known colloquially as “cow farts”—is estimated to expel additional tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere each year.
Despite agriculture being so damaging to the planet, green ammonia is one such opportunity to enact positive change. Green ammonia is the process of making renewable and carbon-free fertilizer. There are several methods for doing this in an efficient and high-quality way. These methods have the potential to lower greenhouse gas output while maintaining the cost-effectiveness of this vital industry-standard product.
One such method is made by performing electrolysis on water to produce hydrogen and chemically-separating the necessary nitrogen from the air. These elements are then put through the system of nitrogen fixation called the Haber-Bosch Process, key to producing any ammonia at scale.
The previous method of manufacturing ammonia requires the emission of known greenhouse gases, like methane, to produce the necessary hydrogen molecule. This manufacturing step is where the majority of emissions come from. With agriculture as a whole contributing to more than three percent of the world’s total greenhouse emissions, the potential impact of green ammonia is substantial. Considering the necessary growth of agriculture over the next generation, this sustainable solution couldn’t have come at a better time.
Hydrogen Fuel Cells
Hydrogen fuel cells have been part of the green conversation for a number of years. Elon Musk was asked about them in a 2021 interview, where, for what wasn’t the first time, he disparaged the use of hydrogen fuel cells in cars. While his opinion carries a lot of weight, there is also a strong contingent of engineers that believe hydrogen cells are the future.
Fuel cells refer to a source of power that uses energy from a chemical reaction, like a traditional battery. In the case of hydrogen cells, hydrogen and air are put under a chemical reaction combining hydrogen and oxygen to cleanly and efficiently produce energy. Hydrogen’s only byproducts are electricity, heat, and water.
In Musk’s defense, cars only represent a single use case for hydrogen cells. This technology is expected to have applications in manufacturing, materials handling, and other forms of transportation as well as portable or backup power in reversible systems. Even if Musk is right and hydrogen cells ultimately don’t make sense for passenger cars, they may still have a role in transportation, particularly for transport vehicles like semi-trucks.
Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries are perhaps the most mainstream of the three technologies covered here but they are far from a finished product. They have no doubt transformed several major global industries, not the least of which is passenger vehicles.
As lithium-ion batteries are engineered to hold more charge and last longer, and are less expensive and less wasteful to dispose of, their carbon footprint will continue to decrease and they will transform more industries.
Lithium-ion batteries will not only transform existing industries but will make emerging ones more viable. As their price to produce and implement drops and as the technology around them improves, their role as energy storage units will make them excellent backups for the electrical grid—especially as energy sources like solar or wind, which see frequent interruptions, come to comprise more of the energy mix.
Equipment that requires energy outside of the traditional electric grid, like military or industrial applications, will also benefit. Portable and submersible lithium-ion batteries can potentially transform underwater data centers that are becoming more common among major tech companies like Microsoft. In this case, lithium-ion batteries will only enhance the already energy- and cost-efficient underwater datacenters.