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Will we ever have electric planes?

Slow it may be, but the transition to electric vehicles is now well underway, with the promise of substantial reductions in greenhouse gases to come. Someone asked me recently if a similar transition was possible in aviation – will we ever have electric planes? The usual answer is no, not any time soon. Getting a […]

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FeedKind: turning greenhouse gases into animal feed

If you tuck into a piece of meat today, in whatever form it may be, there’s likely to be a long supply chain behind it that is mostly invisible. There’s the animal it came from, obviously. Behind that is the feed that reared that animal to full size, usually soy. Behind the feed is the […]

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Could you replant a forest by drone?

Scientists may be hard at work on technologies that can draw CO2 back out of the atmosphere, but so far we are yet to improve on the tree for efficiency and cost. The future of our planet as a liveable and comfortable home for humanity may well depend on what we do with trees. Preserving […]

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Accelerating EV research with open source vehicles

Open Source is a phenomenon that emerged in the software industry. Where companies such as Microsoft built their business by locking everything down, open source developers publish the code and let anyone use and improve it. As it turns out, the combined wisdom of thousands of programmers in a user community is often superior to […]

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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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