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Hybrid solar panels for electricity and heat

I’ve written in the past about passive solar heat, such as Trombe walls, solar furnaces or solar heating walls. The idea is more familiar is solar hot water systems. But did you know that solar heat and solar electricity can be combined? Hybrid solar panels have been on the market for a while, but the […]

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Transport innovation of the week: seaweed biofuels

Despite the threat of climate change, the world still consumes almost 100 million barrels of oil a day. Most of that goes on transport, burned in cars and trucks and planes. There’s no source of renewable liquid fuels that comes anywhere near that scale, and so the most obvious solution for transport has been electrification […]

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Hello Tractor: smart farming for Africa

Mobile phones are one of the best documented forms of leapfrogging – when people in developing countries skip a generation of technology. In this case, many households have a mobile phone now without ever having a landline. Because smartphones are so versatile, there’s also an opportunity to skip a whole load of other things. One […]

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The final mile problem

The ‘last mile’ is a well known problem in transport. It refers to the distance from people’s homes to the bus stop or train station. Or it could be at the other end, the distance from the train station to the office. It’s the beginning or end of a journey, the distance to or from […]

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How mobile phones reduce carbon emissions

Most of us in Britain have a smartphone these days, and that’s increasingly true internationally. There are 2.6 billion mobile subscriptions in the world, and while not everyone owns one, an estimated 6 billion people have access to a phone. As the UN noted a couple of years ago, more people have access to a […]

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Why the world needs waterless toilets

The other day I was opening a charity magazine and found an insert from Practical Action inside. It’s about toilets in Bangladesh and I’ve seen it a couple of times now. Before I start, a word of warning – if you’re reading this over lunch, maybe come back later. The story in the flyer is […]

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Review: The Wealth of Humans, by Ryan Avent

The world is on the cusp of a digital revolution, argues Ryan Avent, and it will be just as transformative as the industrial revolution. It will overturn long held traditions about work, income, and politics. Depending on how we respond, we could end up with a more equal, more fulfilling future, or we could resort […]

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Rwanda’s drone flights begin

In October 2014 I wrote about how drones could be a leapfrog technology. A year later, plans were unveiled for the world’s first drone port, to be build in Rwanda. A year on again, and Rwanda clocks up another milestone: the world’s first regular commercial drone flights are underway. When I last looked in on […]

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Glowee’s biological light bulb

When I was a teenager there was a beach we used to go to in Madagascar that had glowing sand. It would spark if you kicked or dragged your feet on the sand at night. Since it was only on the wet sand that this occurred, I figured it was something in the water rather […]

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Three carbon negative technologies

Last week I wrote about four ways to draw CO2 out of the atmosphere, something we are almost certainly going to have to do to stabilise the climate in the long term. All of those techniques were natural ones, better ways of managing land to expand its capacity to lock up carbon. To my mind, […]

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