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In 2011, a Seattle nonprofit broke ground on the largest net-zero energy building in America, the president laid out a path to putting super-efficient cars on the road, and solar power boomed. Green innovation pushed industries from energy to transportation to construction to take stock of their impact on the world and make changes. Here are some of the best green ideas that emerged in the past year.
Alternative Jet Fuels Take Off
Airplanes use more fuel than most of us want to think about, but their carbon footprint is starting to shrink. The first commercial flights to use biofuel blends took off this year, and Virgin Atlantic announced it was working on a fuel that would produce half the carbon of regular jet fuel.
Photo courtesy of United Continental
Liquid Batteries for EVs
Car companies promised that future charging stations will be able to fill up an electric vehicle in 10 minutes flat. But researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology came up with a better idea: a lightweight battery full of gooey liquid that could be pumped into the car, just like gas.
Photo courtesy of Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cloud-computing Home Heaters
Microsoft Research had an energy-saving pitch for homeowners: Why not install a computer server instead of a heater? “Physically, a computer server is a metal box that converts electricity into heat,” one researcher pointed out.
Photo courtesy of the Department of Energy
New York City opened its first 20 mile-per-hour “slow zone,” which will make streets safer for pedestrians but also encourages the use of bikes and other alternative forms of transportation.
Photo courtesy of the NYC Department of Transportation
Fishing fleets searching for yellowfin tuna and swordfish too often hook the overfished bluefin tuna. But when fishing boats use weak hooks, which bend to release strong fish like bluefins, the fish have a greater chance of survival.
Photo courtesy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Pocket-Charging Cell Phone
Forget solar chargers. This concept phone sucks up energy from heat, which means that it can subsist off the body heat it accrues in your pocket.
Photo courtesy of Patrick Hyland