From startups to unicorns, businesses all over the world are now incorporating clean technology into their practices.
With a global climate crisis looming over our world, many companies and governments have put much investment into cleantech. The sector is abuzz with funding activity, with investments in clean tech surging in recent years, and billionaires such as Jeff Bezos and Mukesh Ambani making large capital commitments to the sector.
With new challenges and opportunities in the future, here’s a look at five new clean technologies trends that will shape the landscape of the sector in the next decade.
The rise of alternative food solutions
The meat and dairy industry is one of the biggest carbon emitters and a contributor to global warming. If meat and dairy industries continue producing carbon emissions by 2050, they will be responsible for over 81% of global emissions targets.
In recent years, many companies have started to develop sustainable food solutions as alternatives to the meat and dairy industry. According to a Techstars report, companies are taking note of the flaws in the food system, and are working towards innovative alternatives. This is why many investors have started to look at the cell-based and plant-based industry more closely.
A recent report from AT Kearney predicted that in 2040 most meat would not come from animals. 60% of the food of the future is expected to either be grown in vats, or replaced by plant-based products.
Solar technology innovation
Allied Market Research estimates that by 2026, the global solar energy market will reach US$223.3 billion, growing from a market value of $52.5 billion in 2018. This growth in the market is largely driven by the adoption of solar powered cities. One example is in Cumberland, Maine. The solar fields in Cumberland are able to hold 1400 solar panels and fulfill the power requirements of the entire town.
The solar energy space has seen innovation, for instance, through new designs that capture more light at reduced costs. Research is also being directed towards perovskite-based photovoltaic cells, which can react to different wavelengths of light, producing more energy. However, the research regarding this direction is still in its early stages.
The fall of lithium-ion batteries
Lithium-ion batteries have been the most efficient batteries in technology, with a high energy density and no memory effect. Because of Lithium-ion efficiency, most EVs use this type of battery. Tesla, for example, prides itself on its lithium-nickel-cobalt-aluminum chemistry, due to how much more efficient it is when compared to other batteries.
However, scientists believe that the future is not in lithium-ion batteries. Currently, research is underway to produce solid-state batteries. Unlike lithium-ion batteries, solid-state batteries utilize safe and nonflammable electrolytes. Solid electrolytes are faster charging, have longer shelf life, possess greater range, and are more efficient. They reduce the need for expensive storage systems as well.
Because of solid-state battery efficiency, many EV manufacturers are hopeful for a revolution. Toyota has even made energy-efficient batteries a priority. They have considered solid-state as a solution, and hope to sell the solid-state battery-equipped EVs within this decade.
Carbon capture gains popularity
Direct carbon capture is one of many solutions directed towards controlling global emissions levels. Carbon capture technology captures CO2 directly from the air and splits water into hydrogen and oxygen. The two are then recombined to form diesel or gasoline, which are more sustainable and can reduce fossil fuels.
However, the technology is still too expensive to be efficient at scale. The capture is expensive because CO2 is only .04% of the atmosphere. The lower the concentration of the carbon dioxide is, the more expensive technical process of removing carbon dioxide becomes.
Is smart recycling the way to go?
Presently, recycling is a $6.2 billion market in the U.S. by revenues. Although growth is marginal, at less than 2% a year, there is an emerging scope for automation in this sector.
This smart recycling bin has sensors and cameras to segregate and sort recyclable materials. Another example is AMP Robotics dual-robot recycling system that sorts, picks, and places trash. This system picks over 160 products in a minute and helps sort them quickly and efficiently.
“AI opens up many opportunities that fundamentally reshape and make recycling a more important part of the waste ecosystem,” Matanya Horowitz, CEO of AMP Robotics, told Recycling International.
Increased investment of the clean tech sector can help to take the world closer to net-zero ambitions. While developing business models that are sustainable in the long run has been a challenge, renewed efforts are signaling that perhaps the best is yet to come from the clean tech industry.