2015 was an exciting year for breakthrough innovations. We witnessed reusable-self-landing rockets, fuel-cell cars, autonomous cars and better batteries, amongst others.
These new technologies are among us and they’re not part of a movie or some future visions. They’re part of a new tech era in which scientists and entrepreneurs are rapidly trying new ideas to save energy andÂ provide cleaner alternatives.
Tesla, Google, Volkswagen, Mercedes and much more are investing a lot of money into building electric cars that partially or entirely drive on their own. The possible results: reduction of traffic accidents, energy savings, ride sharing and much more. Google has an ongoing research project with small autonomous cars that are cruising in Mountain View, California. Tesla, with its luxury electric cars, has stepped the game up with the Autopilot mode and allows cars to adjust speed, change lanes and park automatically.
Toyota, is moving ahead with a mass-production of a fuel cell sedan. The Mirai, which converts hydrogen into electricity and emits nothing but drops of water, made its debut in California this month and will be rolled out next year in several European countries. The Mirai (in Japanese the word means future), can go 310 miles (close to 500 km) on a single tank.
Reusable / Self-Landing Rockets
SpaceX made big headlines in December, when it successfully launched 11 commercial satellites into space a landed it’s rocket back on earth surface without any problem. This was big news for space exploration, especially because this is in direct relation with the research done to date, to make the rocket production cheaper, fuel expenses more efficient and things reusable. Reusable rockets are planned to be used for cargo purposes, but also for other fields like sending astronauts and items to the ISS, and preparing them for the next conquer, Mars. Blue Origin, owned by Jeff Bezos, is part of this dream and has managed to successfully launch and land a rocket of its own as well.
Solar and Tidal Power
Carnegie Wave Energy is already testing out its grid-connected project that utilizes wave energy. The cool thing is that the company has a system that goes deep underwater and it’s safe from storms. Panasonic and SolarCity, are the largest residential solar installer in the U.S., and this year they announced new panels that are even more efficient. And improvements will continue next year as well.
Solar and the wind have a lot of potentials, however, the energy that is generated needs to be stored. The battery race for home systems is already on its way and back in May, Elon Musk unveiled the battery products he plans to produce in his 5 billion dollar Gigafactory in Nevada. The product is sleek, mountable and to be used at home, while it has been sold out until summer 2016. In 2015, Harvard researchers unveiled a flow battery made with a cheap, non-toxic, high-performance material that they say won’t catch fire. (Find out how this flow battery works.) MIT and DOE also announced this year promising plans for advances that could make batteries better and cheaper.