Being in the business of innovation is an exciting thing, but nothing beats sustainable innovation. At Hexagon, our mission is to develop technology that empowers the makers of the world to optimise and realise ideas that help to restore our balance with nature.
To power progress, Hexagon has made sustainability an essential development pillar spanning everything from our business planning to our product portfolio. We established R-evolution to deploy and optimise sustainable technology and through Sixth Sense, our open innovation platform, we support start-ups that are doing their bit to shape a sustainable manufacturing sector.
Driving positive change requires awareness as well as action, so we make it our business to keep up to date with market developments that offer game changing sustainable potential.
From the transformation of abandoned mines to the newly discovered powers of kangaroo poo, we take a look at some of the new ideas and technologies being developed to curb climate change. Enjoy.
1. Cool invention – planet cooling potential
Urban areas retain heat much more so than natural spaces. To stay cool, people turn to energy hungry things like air conditioning.
In what could be a major breakthrough, the clever folks at Cambridge University in the UK have invented a pioneering plant-based coating that stays cool when exposed to sunlight. Eminently manufacturable and scalable, a square meter of the film generates over 120 watts of cooling power.
Application in buildings and automotive could slash our energy use. Even better, it has been developed in a range of colours and textures – nice!
2. “Jet-Zero” takes a step towards reality
When we think of hydrogen air travel, our minds perhaps turn to futuristic concepts – but hydrogen air travel took a step closer in November 2022 when, in an aviation world first, Rolls Royce successfully tested an aircraft engine running on the fuel.
There’s a lot of work to do to ready the industry for the switch, including a major overhaul of ground infrastructure, but the test marks a huge step towards the decarbonisation of air travel.
3. On a methane mission – kangaroo poo, red seaweed and Bill Gates…
When it comes to greenhouse gases, the methane proficiency of cows makes them as big an emissions hazard as many heavy industries. But scientists have ideas to tackle this…
Enter kangaroo poo. Specifically baby kangaroo poo which contains acetic acid producing, rather than methane producing, bacteria which scientists have harnessed to create a culture that could be given to cows to dramatically slash agricultural emissions.
Kangaroo poo is not the only thing on the front line of the methane offensive. Bill Gates has invested in an Australian company harnessing a type of red seaweed that can supress cows methane production by more than 80% when a small amount is added to their feed.
From seaweed to seagrass – if you’re interested in the power of marine greens, see how our sustainable technology incubator R-evolution is monitoring the health and restoration of vital sea grass habitat.
4. Solid-state battery breakthrough could revolutionise Electric Vehicles (EV)
EV battery performance gains are vital to winning consumer confidence and decarbonising the world’s roads.
Just this month, Toyota has gone big with the announcement of a major breakthrough in EV battery technology. The firm says its discovery will allow it to halve the weight, size and cost of batteries. They are anticipating a solid-state battery with a range of 745 miles that charges in 10 minutes.
Better still, they say they will be able to manufacture solid-state batteries for use in EVs as soon as 2027.
At Hexagon, we are keen to empower support innovators in this field and are helping them to unlock greater battery power potential Find out more about our Battery Modelling and Solutions that include Battery Anode Overhang Analysis and Thermal management simulation among others.
With regular news of advances in battery technology it seems certain – whoever ultimately achieves it – that range, cost and charging times will continue to improve, hastening the consumer shift to EV.
5. Abandoned mines could store energy to power Earth
Sometimes it’s less of an invention and more of an idea – but this one could revolutionise energy storage.
Fluctuations in wind and solar energy generation, as well as usage patterns, mean new innovative energy storage solutions are needed to limit the loss of energy we already generate.
By using gravity battery technology in abandoned mines, we could store enough energy to power Earth say scientists from International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA).
With the handful that currently exist validating the concept there is an easy vision for scaling. There are 500,000 abandoned mines in the US alone and millions around the world – so the idea could revolutionise the global energy economy and help us to power the planet.
6. Climate TRACE unleashes data on greenhouse gases
“We have huge emissions gaps, finance gaps, adaptation gaps. But those gaps cannot be effectively addressed without plugging the data gaps” – these are the powerful words of UN Secretary General António Guterres. And as we all know in manufacturing – you can’t manage what you can’t measure.
All that could be set to change with the launch of Climate TRACE – a Google funded, Al Gore led not-for-profit that is aggregating satellite images and harnessing AI and ML to gain a real-time picture of greenhouse gas emissions.
The project monitors more than 80,000 global sites accounting for a sizeable share of world emissions. The data it generates can be used to learn about our impacts so we can reduce them. It’s hugely promising!
7. Wireless charging breakthrough
Imagine charging large commercial and industrial vehicles like an electric toothbrush… Sound like fantasy? This could now be a commercial viability thanks to a recent breakthrough in inductive charging technology made by the team at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg.
Copper wire as fine as human hair and a new type of silicon carbide semiconductor make the transmission of high power through the air possible.
Trucks, ferries and heavy mining, agricultural and industrial vehicles could benefit. Ferries for example could charge every time they dock at port without passengers ever noticing. The move could speed up the greening of passenger transport and heavy industries.
8. Plastic busting microbes
We’ve all heard the story about plastic ingesting microbes – but until recently, the strains discovered have mainly worked at temperatures over 30°C making them both energy intensive and expensive to deploy commercially.
The good news for us all is that microbes that can do the same thing at 15°C have now been discovered in the Alps and the Arctic. Harnessing them commercially could be a recycling breakthrough.
9. Floating solar – growth, innovation and potential to power the world
One technology, two eco benefits – energy generation and water conservation. This is why floating solar growth has spiked in the past decade. But according to a new study published in the journal Nature, floating solar panels could produce three times as much electricity as the entire EU.
Already widely used in places like Singapore where land is scarce, the technology is booming across the world with the market expected to grow by 43% a year over the next decade, reaching $24.5bn by 2031.
That’s not all – innovation is at work. Floating solar panels that track the Sun could maximise the amounts of energy they generate. Technology developer Solaris Float uses two-axis solar panels and unique sun-chasing technology to generate up to 40 per cent more energy than static land based panels.
Find out about Hexagon’s work to digitise solar energy generation with this R-evolution project in Malaga, Spain.
10. Jaw-some automation to rid our waters of plastic
WasteShark is the autonomous robot poised to rid waterways of waste the world over.
The invention from RanMarine can scoop up a whopping tonne of rubbish on each trip it makes, amounting to a total of up to 21,000 plastic bottles a day. Deployed already, it has a 5km range, swim time of 8 hours and the real-time data it generates will help us improve water quality.
While no single technology will solve our climate crisis, we passionately believe that the combined innovation of the manufacturing sector will give us the breakthrough we need to create a more sustainable future for our planet.
We thrive on progress and nothing excites us more than planet saving ideas, which is exactly why Hexagon is committed to becoming the go-to technology partner of innovators with big ideas.
About the author
Abhishek Sengupta is the Vice President of Strategy & Portfolio at Hexagon’s Manufacturing Intelligence division. After beginning his career as a software engineer, Abhishek now has around 20 years global technology leadership experience across multiple industries, functions and geographies. He is passionate about technology business and looks to bring his diverse experience to unlock the full potential of manufacturing industries and empower the customers through digital transformation and full lifecycle optimisation. Abhishek joined Hexagon in March 2022 following 11 years at Siemens in Germany and USA where in his most recent role, he was responsible for Corporate Development at Siemens Industries Software.