Green Innovations: Sci-fi or Real?
From space-based solar arrays to robotic fleets of cloud seeders, green innovations can sound more like science fiction than reality. Do you know the difference?
Question 1 of 10
Space-based solar arrays. Sci-fi or real?
... Smallish solar panels have been used in space pretty much since they were first invented. But in Japan, scientists have plans to take things to a whole other level. By 2030, they intend to have an enormous array of space-situated solar panels beaming energy -- equivalent to what a large nuclear power plant produces -- down to Earth in the form of either microwaves or lasers.
Question 2 of 10
Plasma converters. Sci-fi or real?
... Turns out the Mr. Fusion device in "Back to the Future" wasn't that far-fetched after all. Plasma converters actually exist; they use extreme heat to turn trash into useful byproducts like slag and electricity.
Question 3 of 10
Farms in skyscrapers. Sci-fi or real?
... The world is becoming an incredibly crowded place, and advocates for vertical farms -- farms located in high rises -- are pushing the idea that we must begin growing our food in skyscrapers. In theory, this would save a lot of space, reducing agricultural water consumption, cutting down on pollution and waste, decreasing the risk of food-borne illnesses and producing enough food so everybody gets enough to eat.
Question 4 of 10
Cold Fusion. Sci-fi or real?
... Quick physics refresher: Fusion is the process by which atoms join together and release energy. The goal for cold fusion is simply this: Get that same type of reaction to occur at room temperature, which is a lot safer and more practical than, say, the temperature of the sun's fiery core, the other location where fusion is known to take place. Getting cold fusion to occur -- with a net energy gain, of course -- is widely believed to be in the realm of impossibility, although many scientists insist it's possible if we could just figure out how.
Question 5 of 10
Fuel-cell-powered UAVs, or unmanned air vehicles. Sci-fi or real?
... UAVs powered by fuel cells instead of combustion engines have already been developed by the U.S. military. Not only are they more fuel-efficient and pollution-free, they also fly much quieter than craft equipped with regular airplane engines -- a plus since they're often used for covert ops.
Question 6 of 10
Robotic fleets of cloud seeders. Sci-fi or real?
... It's too soon to say whether this planet-hacking scheme (aka: geoengineering proposal) will ever make it off the page, but the idea has been thrown into the ring. Basically, wind-powered ships would cruise around the ocean spraying saltwater into the air. The goal is this: The grains of salt would then act as condensation nuclei and increase the condensation of water vapor, thereby increasing the planet's overall cloud cover. Increased cloud cover would bounce more sunlight back into space, and just might buy us some time in the race against global warming.
Question 7 of 10
Artificial carbon-capturing trees. Sci-fi or real?
... The details are still being hammered out, but these "trees" probably aren't going to end up looking like your typical oak or maple. What they will do, however, is suck CO2 out of the air just like trees do. In fact, because the artificial trees don't need to collect sunlight, their "leaves" can be packed tightly together, making them more efficient than live arboreal air-filters.
Question 8 of 10
Space mirrors. Sci-fi or real?
... In this scenario, trillions of mirrors would be shot by a giant cannon into space. Once there, they would reflect sunlight away from the planet, shielding it from the sun's scorching stare.
Question 9 of 10
Electronic paper. Sci-fi or real?
... Rough early models of electronic paper have hit the market, although it'll likely be some time before the technology becomes fine-tuned enough for widespread adoption. This will probably happen in the next couple of years, however, so if you manage to not kick the bucket before then, chances are excellent you'll be seeing this tech become mainstream.
Question 10 of 10
Planters made out of cow plop. Sci-fi or real?
... So-called CowPots are already on the market. They're biodegradable, great at nurturing plants and, thankfully, completely odorless.
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