Digital Energy & Green Tech

Techonomic Top 5: Building with Mushrooms, Curbing Food Waste, the Selfie Mecca, and More

Ecovative's Mushroom Insulation. (Photo courtesy Ecovative)

When you want to make a mushroom omelet, you usually cut off the stems and use the caps—the tastiest, most tender part of edible fungi. But when it comes to putting mushrooms to more utilitarian use, the web of roots called mycelium has been getting a lot more love. Paul Stemets, author of “Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World” has prototyped medicinal applications from fungi, including small pox, HIV, and malaria treatments, and used mushroom enzymes to clean up contaminated soil. Now he’s developed a building material that attracts and kills termites. Meanwhile, a company called Ecovative Design is using mycelium to make mushroom foam for packaging (Dell uses the stuff to ship its computer servers) and building insulation that’s grown between walls instead of injected or installed.   More

Energy & Green Tech

Can Drones Help Scrub China’s Filthy Skies?

(Image via Shutterstock)

Just how bad is China’s air pollution? A recent M.I.T. study concluded that a huge swath of the Chinese population is losing an average of five years in life expectancy due to pollution. The Chinese government is getting serious about the issue, and not just because the thick smog actually interferes with domestic surveillance efforts. China's pollution has become a source of national embarrassment and outrage, with Chinese scientists comparing it to a nuclear winter. The government is now escalating the use of drones to fight its recently declared “war on pollution.” In a plan reminiscent of the futuristic geo-engineering discussed at Techonomy 2012, aircraft disperse chemicals that freeze pollutants, making them fall to the ground. But what becomes of this solidified smog, not to mention the chemicals, once it's been scrubbed from the sky?   More

Energy & Green Tech Government Life Science

Techonomic Top 5: Reanimating the Woolly Mammoth, Facebook Drones, and more

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The passenger pigeon became extinct in 1914, though not long before it flew in flocks that could number in the billions (yes, with a "b"). But a group of scientists has teamed up with tech visionary Stewart Brand in spearheading an effort to bring the species back to life. The so-called de-extinction project could reanimate long-lost species like the woolly mammoth and even mitigate environmental threats like melting permafrost, according to some.   More

Energy & Green Tech

Tesla Supercharges Cross-Country Treks

Searching for a fun vacation idea this spring break that’s pretty darned cool and eco-friendly to boot? You could take a cue from Elon Musk, who’s spending his spring break driving cross-country with his kids in his Tesla Model S, going from Los Angeles to New York and stopping along the way at Tesla’s newly unveiled Supercharger stations to recharge. The Supercharger network, announced Sunday, is a string of more than 70 ultra-fast, free-to-use charging stations that span much of both coasts, stretch from Los Angeles to New York via the upper Midwest, and shoot off into eastern Texas.   More

Energy & Green Tech

A Recipe for Less Waste in the Food Service Industry

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Think twice before you throw out those leftovers—or maybe even take a picture. Globally, one-third of all food is wasted—1.3 billion tons of food in total. The U.S. alone trashes 40 percent of what it could consume, and much of this comes from the food service industry itself (which loses between $8 and $20 billion through food waste every year). Luckily, Andrew Shackman and his 10-year-old company, LeanPath, has found a way to change the way food service industry thinks about waste.   More

Cities Energy & Green Tech Video

Ford’s Farley Wants P2P Sharing and Electric Cars for Urban Mobility

As the urban population soars, city streets are growing increasingly traffic-clogged and difficult to navigate, impeding our ease of transit and, more critically, harming our environment. At our Techonomy 2013 conference, we talked to Jim Farley, EVP of global marketing at Ford, about the car industry and using shared ownership to tackle urban mobility. While business-to-consumer models (think Zipcar) have thus far dominated the shared-ownership market, they have struggled to succeed financially. Farley believes a peer-to-peer system of sharing vehicles is more promising. Electrifying the car industry, he added, will be an important part of developing this peer-to-peer system, enabling us to be more economical, more efficient, and kinder to our Earth.   More

Energy & Green Tech Startup Culture

Microsoft’s Craig Mundie on Why He’s a Techno-Optimist

Take a monolithic problem like climate change and consider its solutions. Many would say the only answer is to get all of us to alter our lifestyles so we can cut back on greenhouse gas emissions. But a "techno-optimist" like Microsoft's Craig Mundie would urge us to approach the problem from a different, more novel angle: Instead of hinging Earth's health on changing all of society, what about engineering a method of reflecting heat out of the atmosphere? At our Techonomy 2013 conference in November, Mundie spoke with us about how creative traits like "risk tolerance" and "novelty seeking" will help us confront big challenges like climate change. "If you give us a big problem, we'll invent a big answer," he says. "We're [not] bound to live within the constraints of the capabilities we only know today."   More

Energy & Green Tech Manufacturing Techonomy Detroit

Remaking Detroit Is More Than the Sum of Its Parts: A Car Guy’s View

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As a consumer, it is easy to take for granted the innovation needed to create automobiles that are more appealing, leave a smaller environmental footprint, and are manufactured more efficiently. But for industry insiders immersed in the operations of delivering products, it is easy to miss the forest for the trees. By a quirk of fate, having moved from the Silicon Valley to work in Dearborn 17 years ago, I wear a lens of both an outsider and an insider that offers me a unique vantage point on the remaking of Detroit: I can see how the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.   More

Energy & Green Tech Global Tech

Tesla Hits China Speed Bump, BYD Turns Around

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A couple of interesting news bits are coming from the new energy vehicle sector, including a potential roadblock into the China market for up-and-coming U.S. player Tesla and new results from struggling domestic electric car maker BYD that look encouraging but not too exciting. The main common theme in this latest news is that new energy vehicle makers continue to hold out hopes for the China market, banking on strong government policies to boost the market, even though progress has been slow so far.   More

Energy & Green Tech

UK Inaugurates World’s Largest Offshore Windfarm

While America celebrated the anniversary of its independence, our erstwhile colonizers celebrated the possibility of energy independence. July 4th marked the official opening of the London Array, the world's largest offshore windfarm. Situated in the outer Thames Estuary off the Kent and Essex coasts, the facility boasts 175 turbines capable of powering two thirds of the homes in Kent. In a statement, British Prime Minister David Cameron said that the project demonstrates that "Britain is a great country to come and invest in, and it's meant jobs for local people and it means clean, green energy for half a million homes in our country." These are not empty words. Britain's newest windfarm represents an impressive convergence of international innovation. It is owned by Denmark's Dong Energy, Germany's E.On, and Masdar of Abu Dhabi, and has the capacity to power 470,000 homes.   More

Digital Energy & Green Tech

Wildfires in the American West: Can Technology Help Save Lives?

Wildfire image via Shutterstock

In the wake of the June 3oth Granite Mountain tragedy, in which 19 of 20 members of an elite Hotshots team died fighting a huge wildfire outside Yarnell, Arizona—the greatest loss of firefighters in a single day since the 9-11 attacks—there is a shift in focus toward the “new normal.” Prevention and preparedness clearly are not enough; by all accounts, the Hotshots were experienced, well-prepared experts, an elite force combat-trained to handle even the toughest wilderness fires. This fire, said their local fire chief, was “just too dangerous.”   More

Energy & Green Tech Global Tech

Power Outages and Military Roadblocks? In Lebanon, There’s an App for That

Moustafa Baalbaki, creator of Beirut Electricity, at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in 2012

The hassles of day-to-day life in Beirut, Lebanon, where tech entrepreneurship is growing, have led to some innovative apps. Daily electricity cuts are standard in the capital. Some families have backup generators. Moustafa Baalbaki’s does not. That led him to his breakthrough local app, Beirut Electricity, which tracks the rolling three-hour outages and predicts when the power will be on days, weeks, months, or even years in advance. “My dad used to have a manual [power-outage tracker] on the refrigerator made from paper. I thought, ‘I can do better. I am a software engineer,’” says Baalbaki, who works for KnowledgeView, a UK cross-platform publishing company.   More

Energy & Green Tech Global Tech

Reason Comes to China-Western Solar Clash

Shanghai solar panels (image via Shutterstock)

After more than a year of antagonism, I’m happy to see that the voice of reason finally seems to be coming to the ongoing clash between China and the West in their prolonged dispute over Beijing’s state support for the solar panel sector. Germany seems to be the driving force behind this welcome change in tone, following German Chancellor Angela Merckel’s remarks last week that she opposed anti-dumping tariffs on Chinese solar cells being proposed by the E.U.’s trade office. Merkel correctly realized that a trade war over solar panels wouldn’t benefit anyone, and could potentially deal a crippling blow to a sector that will be critical to the world’s future energy security.   More

Energy & Green Tech

Going the Distance: Tesla to Expand Network of Charging Stations

Tesla image via Shutterstock

With an expanding network of fast-charging stations, the 10-year-old Tesla electric car will soon be able to traverse the United States. This signals the next phase in Tesla Motors Inc.’s ability to appeal to a more geographically diverse market. “Tesla needs a broader network of charging stations to appeal to customers beyond California and the northeastern U.S., where it now has fueling spots. Without such stations, Tesla drivers are limited by the estimated 265-mile (426-kilometer) range of a battery charge,” Douglas MacMillan & Alan Ohnsman write in Bloomberg.   More

Energy & Green Tech Global Tech

Dutch Eco-Engineering: Using Nature to Protect Against Climate Change

Zandmotor vlucht-711-04-2011foto: Rijkswaterstaat/Joop van Houdt

Necessity truly is the mother of invention. With almost three quarters of the Netherlands at or below sea level, Dutch engineers are finding new ways to protect themselves from the increasing threat of floods due to climate change by using nature as a defense against rising tides. For example, the Sand Engine is a vast reservoir of sand continually cultivated to protect eroding beaches,   More

Energy & Green Tech Life Science

DIY Genetic Engineering Project Draws Crowd and Controversy

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A fundraising campaign for a DIY biology project to genetically engineer "sustainable natural lighting" was going gangbusters on Kickstarter. And that was before it was featured on page B1 of the New York Times today. But not all of the attention has been supportive.   More

Energy & Green Tech IoE

Why the Internet of Everything Could Mean Fewer Cars

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Dire predictions about the mushrooming number of cars jamming the world’s roads and clogging the world's air may never come true. Instead, a dawning era of super-optimized car sharing is poised to shrink demand for cars. Even General Motors and Ford Chairman Bill Ford have invested in technology that can help make it happen.   More

Energy & Green Tech Jobs Manufacturing

Deloitte’s Chris Park: 3D Printing for Cleaner and Leaner U.S. Manufacturing

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Revitalizing manufacturing is essential to U.S. economic recovery, but it’s not clear yet how this new phase might look. One thing is certain: it won’t look anything thing like manufacturing did 15 or even 5 years ago. PARC CEO Stephen Hoover has spoken at Techonomy events about how innovations like 3D printing and crowdsourcing can drive a paradigm shift in manufacturing. But can a new American manufacturing approach also be eco-friendly? Techonomy spoke with Chris Park, a principal at Deloitte who helps clients with their environmental, social, and sustainability performance, about how next-generation manufacturing technology could reduce environmental impact and bring jobs back to the U.S.   More

Digital Energy & Green Tech

Ford to Crowdsource Fuel-Efficiency App

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As part of a campaign to help drivers learn more about how to optimize their fuel usage, Ford announced its Personalized Fuel-Efficiency App Challenge at last week's New York International Auto Show. The app will address what Ford officials say is the number one concern among drivers. By creating a platform designed to share information through social media, Ford believes it can empower drivers to improve their personal fuel efficiency.   More

Energy & Green Tech Global Tech

China’s Suntech Insolvent, Yingli Links With GLC

(Image via Suntech)

The inevitable has finally happened at tanking former solar star Suntech, which has been forced into bankruptcy, ending a months-long battle between the company's founder Shi Zhengrong and just about all the company's other stakeholders. In the meantime, I would be remiss not to mention another solar news tidbit that has panel maker Yingli forming a new strategic tie-up with GLC-Poly Energy, in what could eventually become the first mega-merger in the struggling solar panel sector.   More