About Green Technology
Since the dawn of the industrial revolution, technological developments have been changing our culture and our environment at an ever-increasing rate. While technology has provided us with undeniable benefits, it has also has negative implications, particularly for the environment. As a result of growing populations and increasing levels of development worldwide, a variety of environmental issues such as resource depletion, climate change, ocean acidification, and myriad forms of pollution have become increasingly pressing in recent years. We have now reached a tipping point at which it is now broadly recognized that carefully managing the environmental impact of technology and development is not merely a good idea, but absolutely essential to the ongoing survival and prosperity of human civilization.
The task now at hand is devising new technologies and redesigning existing systems such that we can continue to meet our needs while substantially decreasing our consumption of natural resources and our production of waste. The new and improved technologies necessary to make our society greener and, ultimately, fully sustainable, are heavily dependent on material science. Making solar energy both economically and environmentally viable for widespread usage, for example, will require photovoltaic devices that are cheaper, more energy efficient, and which contain fewer scarce or toxic elements, better heat resistant coatings and thermal transfer materials for solar thermal plants, and cheaper and more efficient energy storage technologies, all of which will involve advanced materials.
American Elements believes in the power of human ingenuity to solve the staggering environmental problems facing the modern world, but also understands that innovators need access to the high-quality materials that will make those solutions possible. American Elements is therefore highly committed to meeting the material supply needs of researchers and industries working towards a greener future.
Goals of Green Technology
The goals and aims of the green technology movement are clear, but the resources and innovations needed to implement these goals make it the most challenging issue facing society.
Meet the world’s increasing energy needs with cleaner, more sustainable energy sources and harvesting technologies.
Currently, the vast majority of the world’s energy needs are met by burning fossil fuels In addition to requiring non-renewable natural resources that will eventually be depleted, this method of energy production produces greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change, releases toxic gases that comprise the smog that plagues modern cities, and requires expensive and often highly-polluting methods of fuel extraction, refining, and transport. Some of these problems have grown more pressing as fossil fuels have become more scarce, requiring drilling in more remote locations, use of less-ideal raw materials such as tar sands that require more intensive processing, and increasingly complex extraction techniques such as fracking.
In the long term, the solution to the many problems with fossil fuels is to transition to using solely renewable energy sources including solar, wind, geothermal, hydropower, biofuels, and waste-to-energy technologies. Maximizing the potential of these power sources will require innovation in areas such as photovoltaic materials to lower the cost and increase the efficiency of solar power, gas separation materials for efficient use of gaseous fuels, and improved heat-resistant materials for use in solar power plants. The use of cleaner power sources to power automobiles will require improved battery technology for electric vehicles and better fuel cell technology for fuel cell-powered vehicles.
In the short to medium term, fossil fuels will remain a significant source of energy, and therefore every effort should be made to make the use of these fuels less damaging to the environment. Efforts aimed at achieving this include the use of “clean coal” technologies to reduce pollution from power plants, as well as technologies such as catalytic converters that reduce emissions from automobiles.
Reduce overall energy usage
Energy conservation is essential both to minimizing the impact of our current usage of fossil fuels, and to make the complete replacement of those fuels with renewable energy sources possible. Energy needs can be reduced through the use of more efficient devices that require less power to achieve the same purpose, as when light emitting diodes or improved fluorescent bulbs replace traditional incandescents. These technologies will only continue to expand in use as material innovations allow for more applications and lower costs. Buildings can be designed to demand less energy by using more effective insulation, maximizing the use of natural lighting, and using passive solar heating and cooling. Vehicle efficiency can be improved through the use of next generation materials such as metal foams that allow for lighter vehicles with better mileage without compromising the structure of the vehicle.
Reduce contamination of our environment with harmful compounds, and clean up already contaminated environments
Materials innovations are essential for reducing and remediating pollution. One of the most successful means of reducing air pollution has been the requirement that catalytic converters be installed in automobiles to reduce the release of nitrogen and sulfur containing side products of fuel production. The catalysis that occurs in these devices requires expensive precious metals, and catalyst support materials that maximize effectiveness while limiting the amount of these metals required. Catalyst supports in these devices are typically high-performance ceramics that can withstand the heat of an engine. Similar ceramic materials may be used in filtration devices for removing pollutants from air streams or contaminated water.
In addition to removing polluting compounds after the environment has been contaminated, or capturing them at the site of production, it is possible to prevent the possibility of pollution from some sources by using less hazardous materials. Toxic metals such as cadmium, arsenic, and lead are found widely in electronics, while dangerous synthetic organic compounds are found in or used in making a wide variety of products. Replacing these with toxic alternative materials prevents their release into the environment when the products containing them are eventually disposed of. The use of lead has already been substantially reduced through the use of lead-free solders in electronics, and similar improvements can be made to reduce contamination with other toxic compounds.
Reduce waste generated by consumer products
Currently, a large percentage of consumer products are either single-use or have short lifespans, and end their lives in a landfill where they will not biodegrade. Materials of particular concern include plastics and a variety of materials used in electronics. Plastics are entirely synthetic polymers that degrade extremely slowly in the environment, while the inorganic materials used in electronics are at best simply tied up in an unusable state in a landfill, and at worst leach out of dump sites and poison the surrounding environment.
One major way to reduce plastic and e-waste is to recycle these materials, but current recycling techniques are often energy-intensive and not always economically viable. In some cases, this problem can be addressed by designing products with reuse or recycling in mind, and improving recycling methods. Additionally, alternate materials that are renewable and biodegradable can be used in place of polluting plastics and scarce inorganic elements used in electronics. Improved bioplastics can be developed to replace plastics that can not be easily recycled, while further development of organic electronics could reduce the need for traditional electronics materials.
Advanced Materials for Green Technology
American Elements is a supplier of materials to many green technology industries.
For the fuel cell industry, we produce catalyst metals such as platinum, cathode materials such as lanthanum strontium manganite, nickel cermets for use as anodes, and electrolyte materials such as yttria stabilized zirconia.
For use in solar energy applications, we supply semiconductor materials in a variety of forms, including quantum dots. These same materials are used in conjunction with materials such as phosphors to produce more efficient technologies in the lighting industry.
Finally, American Elements provides researchers and manufacturers in the field of battery technology with metals (including rare-earths for use in NiMH batteries) for use as electrodes and compounds for use as electrolytes.
Recent Research & Development for Green Technology
- , Using bio-waste and other alternatives as green adhesives, Focus on Powder Coatings, Volume 2014, Issue 2, February 2014
- Palanichamy Kalyani, Ariharaputhiran Anitha, Andre Darchen, Activated carbon from grass – A green alternative catalyst support for water electrolysis, International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, Volume 38, Issue 25, 21 August 2013
- Ana Susmozas, Diego Iribarren, Javier Dufour, Life-cycle performance of indirect biomass gasification as a green alternative to steam methane reforming for hydrogen production, International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, Volume 38, Issue 24, 12 August 2013
- Sanjaya D. Perera, Ruperto G. Mariano, Nour Nijem, Yves Chabal, John P. Ferraris, Kenneth J. Balkus Jr., Alkaline deoxygenated graphene oxide for supercapacitor applications: An effective green alternative for chemically reduced graphene, Journal of Power Sources, Volume 215, 1 October 2012
- R. Sahraei, M. Nosrati, A. Daneshfar, S. Abbasi, M.H. Majles Ara, Facile “green” synthesis and characterization of CdSe nanoneedles: An alternative to organometallic synthetic routes, Materials Letters, Volume 68, 1 February 2012
- Manuel I. Velasco, Claudio O. Kinen, Rita Hoyos de Rossi, Laura I. Rossi, A green alternative to synthetize azo compounds, Dyes and Pigments, Volume 90, Issue 3, September 2011
- Jan Meiss, Markus Hummert, Annette Petrich, Steffen Pfuetzner, Karl Leo, Moritz Riede, Tetrabutyl-tetraphenyl-diindenoperylene derivatives as alternative green donor in bulk heterojunction organic solar cells, Solar Energy Materials and Solar Cells, Volume 95, Issue 2, February 2011
- , Surfactant manufacturers look for green but cheap petro-alternatives, Focus on Surfactants, Volume 2010, Issue 12, December 2010
- M.H. Talou, M.A. Camerucci, Two alternative routes for starch consolidation of mullite green bodies, Journal of the European Ceramic Society, Volume 30, Issue 14, October 2010
- , HallStar announces phthalate alternatives, green esters for polymer applications; acquires Hyperlast plasticizer from Dow, Additives for Polymers, Volume 2009