What is cleantech
One way cleantech, which stands for clean technology, can be defined is as a technology that aims to improve on sustainability and bring environmental benefits. This can mean renewable power sources or products that can help us reverse climate damage, as well as technologies and services that help us be more efficient and reduce our impact on the planet.
Cleantech is sometimes equivalated to "green technology", which has the same purpose and the two terms go hand in hand, for the most part.
Cleantech products started to emerge in every sector, really, from transport, to energy, building and agriculture.
Here at Green Start-Up we constantly cover various companies that come up with solutions that are meant to help ourselves and the planet, from solar panels, to innovative construction methods and advanced recycling techniques.
Why we need cleantech products
There is really one answer to this, which is the climate crisis. Extreme weather events, global warming, which affects our way of living and our ability to inhabit certain places and even how we grow food, makes it crucial that we are able to fight this phenomenon. We can only do this through cleantech products and services.
Water shortages, also part of the climate crisis, but not only, is another big reason why we need to come up with solutions to fight droughts. This is especially important since more and more water will be needed for processing lithium and manufacturing different goods that we'll need for that "green future", while not forgetting about the population itself.
Pollution and deforestation are other huge problems that we need to deal with, as they can mean we'll have worse air quality in the future, while temperatures could also rise as a result of not enough forests to cool down the atmosphere.
Some experts estimate that around 18.7 million hectares of forests are being destroyed every year due to human intervention or fires, while pollution kills 1.8 million people yearly worldwide.
While carbon capture technologies can help us remove CO2 from the air, it doesn't mean that we can keep pumping emissions back there just because we can get rid of it in the future. Carbon capture should work together with carbon reduction for us to be able to see the benefits in the long run.
Cleantech power sources
Now we can break cleantech into many pieces really and I will give you more examples in a minute, but I want to focus on the energy sector for a bit, since energy is something that all of us are using, both at home and industry-wide.
Electricity is as critical to the modern society as water is, which is why we must make sure that we have enough power, without sacrificing on the climate.
There are plenty of green power sources to help us in this regard, two of the most preferred, especially for countries expanding into this field now, are solar panels and wind turbines.
These are fairly cheap and straightforward to buy and install compared to other green power source, but can prove very effective, depending on the geography of a country.
Solar panels especially are a very flexible cleantech energy product, since they can be installed on buildings, on fields, on lakes and even on railway tracks.
Hydro power plants are also green power sources, but they are dependent on the water levels of our rivers, which can be an issue in an ever-warming and drier world.
Same thing can be said about nuclear power plants, which are technically considered green, so long as the nuclear waste is managed properly and no disasters arise. Similar to hydro power plants, however, they need water for cooling, which proved problematic last year in Europe, were the water levels of the rivers fell and nuclear plants lowered their output significantly.
Green hydrogen is another cleantech power source that is obtained through water electrolysis. It's one of the only forms of hydrogen considered green, as long as the electrolysis process is done with renewables energy.
Other types of cleantech
There are many other forms of cleantech products, not all focused on producing energy. As stated above, water is another important component to our society, regardless of the development stage it finds itself in.
The world could hit close to 10 billion people by 2050, which is why some companies and researchers are focused on developing devices that can allow everyone to have access to clean water.
Take this product that uses a gel-like filter as an example. Developed by scientists at Princeton University, it works with solar power and has the ability to remove impurities such as microplastics, bacteria and even heavy metals.
A single square meter of the gel-like substance can produce around 3.8 liters of water in just 10 minutes, which can be impressive if scaled and can help billions of people get access to clean water in an affordable and simple way.
Another example is set by the researchers from MIT and Shanghai Jiao Tong University, who have developed a solar-powered desalination device that can be made from just $4 worth of materials. This can have huge implications for everyone living in water scarce areas, such as Africa, but not only.
EVs are also considered cleantech products, despite their lithium batteries taking their toll on the environment in some areas. Hydrogen cars are still in an early stage of development and they could be the more reliable approach, but still, electric cars definitely have a huge advantage in what regards road emissions, as they have none at all.
There are researchers who developed battery-powered cars that can purify the air while running, a huge win for our air quality, especially in the city. Furthermore, some experts focused on reducing the pollution levels coming from tire wear, by developing a special device that captures the small, health-threatening particles.
Since energy demand is on the rise and so is water usage, both in industrial and household areas, startups and scientists developing in these two sectors will bring more and more cleantech solutions to power the world of tomorrow.
Sometimes overlooked, agriculture can hugely benefit from cleantech products, as it is responsible for feeding ourselves, while having a fairly significant footprint on the environment, especially with regards to methane.
We recently learned of the fact that cow-manure can be used to power farming tools, while battery and hydrogen-electric tractors and other vehicles are starting to rise more and more, so there is hope that the green future of agriculture isn't far off.
You can help in the cleantech field at home, as well, believe it or not. Investing in more efficient electronics, using less power by turning off the lights or the TV when you're not using them and managing your water usage can have a huge impact, especially at scale.
Don't underestimate what you, as a consumer can do, while the cleantech industry will continue to deliver newer and better products that will allow us to live in a green, climate-friendly future.