Earth Day 2012: 5 Green Innovations to Celebrate

The history of Earth Day traces back to 1970 when then United States Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-WI) came up with the idea.  He had long sought a way to inspire people to become more environmentally conscious, and after reading about anti-Vietnam War “teach-ins” on college campuses he was inspired to start a nationwide teach-in on the environment.  Senator Nelson wrote letters to all 50 governors and mayors of the larges U.S. cities asking them to issue Earth Day proclamations.  He also wrote to college newspapers across the country.  His efforts worked and an estimated 20 million people participated in various education activities on April 22, 1970.

In 2009 the United Nations unanimously adopted a resolution designating April 22 each yeas as International Mother Earth Day.  The resolution, spearheaded by the Bolivian Government and supported by over 50 Member States, noted that Earth Day was already observed each year on 22 April in many countries.  Today Earth Day is celebrated globally in more than 175 countries every year.

With this in mind I thought I might take the occasion to identify Green-Tech innovations that relate to recycling technologies, energy conversion and conservation of energy that are worthy of celebration on Earth Day 2012. The following innovations all recently received U.S. patents.  What do they have in common?  As I was searching for them they caught my eye and I found them to be cool, interesting or exciting.  I hope you do too.

Whether or not any of these innovations ultimately become adopted in any large scale way is irrelevant if you ask me.  The more we search for solutions the more we will find.  For innovation to march forward we need creative minds applying their skills.  A tip of the hat to all innovators operating in this space is well earned!


Power generation system and associated methods
United States Patent No., 7,886,537

The energy transfer system includes an energy transfer device positioned adjacent a structure, such as a hotel or any other type of structure. The water source may, for example, be a lake, an ocean, or any other body of water. The present invention contemplates that the water source may be close to the structure, for example less than 10 miles away.

First and second water inlet pipes are used to extract water from the water source and transport the water to the energy transfer device. The extraction depth of the water extracted by the first water inlet pipe is preferably between about 100 and 1200 meters, or at a depth within the water source where sunlight does not substantially penetrate. Such water will preferably between the temperatures of approximately 3 and 20 degrees Celsius.

Water extracted by the first water inlet pipe is cooler than water extracted by the second water inlet pipe. Accordingly, cool water extracted from the water source by the first water inlet pipe may be used by the energy transfer device to cool the adjacent structure.

NOTE: Full disclosure… the inventor is represented by my firm, which is how I know about this innovation.  I do genuinely find this innovation quite exciting.  Where geographically appropriate deployment will significantly reduce energy consumption at such establishments as hotels and conference centers.


System and method for seasonal energy storage
United States Patent No. 7,992,631

This invention is a system and method for capturing and storing heat during hot weather and sun, and cold during cold weather, then retrieving it for use at later times, even two full seasons later or more. The exemplary disclosed system includes a system for collecting heat or cold into a heat exchange fluid; pumps, valves and lines that carry the fluid to a large underground insulated heat sink to store the heat or cold, and to retrieve it and deliver it to the building when needed; and a computer or microprocessor controlled system for monitoring and directing the above systems in combination with each other.

The thermal collection system comprises a plurality of coils including at least one fluid channel with fluid contained within the at least one fluid channel, the thermal collection system configured to heat or cool the fluid within the at least one fluid channel, and the thermal collection system including heat conductive metal sheet material extending from a position above a roof decking of the building to a position below the roof decking, wherein the heat conductive metal sheet material is in direct contact with the at least one fluid channel below the roof decking.  There is a first underground heat sink configured to receive the fluid from the thermal collection system, wherein the first underground heat sink absorbs heat from the fluid in order to heat the first underground heat sink.  There is also a second underground heat sink configured to receive the fluid from the thermal collection system, wherein the fluid absorbs heat from the second underground heat sink in order to cool the second underground heat sink.  Finally, there is a heat exchanger configured to receive fluid from the first underground heat sink in order to heat the building, the heat exchanger also configured to receive fluid from the second underground heat sink in order to cool the building.


Man made island with solar energy collection facilities
United States Patent No. 8,056,554

This invention places solar radiation collector modules on a large scale lightweight man-made island or floating platforms. The island sized floating platforms could either operate at sea, on large natural lakes, or on land where it would be based within a recessed trough of concrete that would hold a fluid of appropriate viscosity such as natural oil, or even water.

The solar collection facilities include a floating platform, the platform primarily comprising a flexible cover, or foil, which extends across an outer ring structure and is sealed thereto. The top cover is an industrial-grade, long-life and UV-resistant material that is either vulcanized and/or clamped or attached by any other suitable manner to the outer ring structure, so that it is airtight. This creates an enclosed volume below the cover. A compressor system is installed so as to be in fluid communication with the enclosed volume and operable to create a slight over-pressure under the cover.

A water supply pipe (inbound) and a steam pipe (outbound) connect to the solar radiation collector modules via a rotary joint located at the center of the platform  Once these pipes have reached the top of the platform, they are routed along the rows of the solar radiation collector modules, to generate usable steam via heat pipes onto which the sunlight is concentrated. Because the length of the various pipes extending from the center of the island to all of the various collector modules will differ, pressure regulator valves are used to moderate and control any undesired pressure differences.


Process for recycling carbon dioxide emissions from power plants into carbonated species
United States Patent No. 8,066,965

This process takes CO2 emissions from the fossil-fuel power plant and transforms such emissions by means of a biological process into different useful carbonated species, such as calcium carbonate, a geological natural product.

More particularly, the process for recycling carbon dioxide emissions from a fossil-fuel power plant includes the steps of: (a) combustion of a fossil fuel, thereby generating heat and a hot exhaust gas containing CO2; (b) converting the heat into energy; (c) cooling the exhaust gas; and (d) biologically transforming at least a portion of the CO2 contained in the cooled exhaust gas into carbonated species, thereby obtaining a low CO2 exhaust gas and producing useful carbonated species. The low CO2 exhaust gas obtained in step (d) can then be released in the atmosphere without substantially contributing to the problem of greenhouse gases.

CO2 transformation takes place inside a bioreactor and is performed by a biocatalyst which accelerates the transformation of CO2 into bicarbonate in an aqueous environment. The bicarbonate can then be precipitated into a stable solid product.


Conversion of ocean wave energy into electrical power
United States Patent No. 8,143,736

This invention relates to solutions for capturing energy from fluid flow and, more particularly, to systems for turning wave and fluid energy into electrical energy. The main focus of the invention is on wave energy from oceans, rivers, lakes, and dams, but the principles are meant to apply to other liquids and gases and the invention has other applications.

The present invention describes several devices and methods of obtaining energy from wave flows and improving the efficiency of existing devices at the same time. (The current patent uses terms such as water, liquid, and fluid interchangeably, since the major embodiment of the patent is envisioned to be water, but in other embodiments the current patent can apply to other fluids and gases.) The present invention also applies Green’s law of the amplitude of waves (that amplitude increases by h to the negative ¼, where h is the water depth) by confining the vertical space near a rotational device to make wave energy easier to capture by increasing the wave amplitude. Innovations of the present invention include devices and methods to maximize the utilization of wave energy in both horizontal and vertical vectors simultaneously.



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One comment so far.

  • [Avatar for American Cowboy]
    American Cowboy
    April 26, 2012 04:01 pm

    “Whether or not any of these innovations ultimately become adopted in any large scale way is irrelevant if you ask me. ”

    But, but, but…. then they would be fodder for patent trolls!