Fast Company

Signs of the Times - - and the Times to Come

In the past week I’ve seen three companies and one surprising manifestation of the cleantech revolution that’s shaping up worldwide. All of these observations are worth sharing as a means of peering into the cleantech crystal ball.

In Switzerland, a company called Swiss Flo-jet uses super-strong water sprays to break down old tires into rubber, fabric, and steel. These usable commodities are worth more when cleaned and segregated like this than the conventional method of grinding up old tires and using them mostly for additives to asphalt roadways. Far less energy used in the process too. Millions of used tires clog landfills globally (sometimes igniting into fires that rage for years!) and a cost-efficient technology like this one holds great promise.

In Italy, an inventor showed me a kinetic energy capture device that is built into roadways to capture the energy of moving cars and trucks. Looks like a good fit for toll booths, freeway exit ramps, and other locations where vehicles need to slow down anyway, saving brakes and capturing energy that is otherwise wasted.

Back in Switzerland, Airlight Energy is demonstrating a domed trough that captures heat and concentrates it to steam generators. Various solar thermal projects use mirrors to concentrate sunlight, but why hasn’t someone thought of this before - - put a clear cover over the mirrors to capture the heat at the same time the mirrors are doing the concentrating. It’s like luggage and wheels - - it took us hundreds of years to combine the two!

And the last observation of the week, the surprising result of the cleantech revolution - - at a hotel in Palo Alto, California, the table lamps all use compact fluorescent light bulbs. Nothing unusual about that any more, but there were plastic locking devices on each bulb to keep them from being pilfered by the guests! CLFs have been in hotels for many years now, in fact hotels were one of the first industries to realize the lifetime saving when compared to incandescent bulbs. But now the cleantech revolution has spread and average citizens realize the benefits - - even if the bulb was lifted from a Holiday Inn!

Three companies and one surprising development. All have one thing in common - - creative minds are at work spreading the cleantech revolution farther and deeper than we thought. Signs of things to come!

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