5 designs that make an impact on the world. The right wave

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Products flood global markets every day, some offer value, others are gimmicks or disposable items. Value and impact are in some ways subjective, what is valuable to one person may not be of interest to another.

Products flood global markets every day, some offer value, others are gimmicks or disposable items. Value and impact are in some ways subjective, what is valuable to one person may not be of interest to another. However, there are some designs that, from inception to release, have the sole purpose of providing a positive impact to a niche or a broad group.

This is by no means an exhaustive list but 5 of my favorite products or designs that offer real impact and value

Tidal is part of Google X Company, if you’re not familiar X is made up of a diverse group of inventors and entrepreneurs who create and launch technologies with the goal of improving the lives of millions (if not billion) people. Quite a big task but if you look at the projects they have started/launched they are on the right track.

Back to Tide. Tidal creates underwater systems that give fish farmers more insight into what’s going on below the surface. They use a mix of cameras, sensors and automatic perception tools that can help bring visibility to our ocean ecosystems. But why is it useful?

Well, I’m sure we’re all aware that we humans are pretty tough on our environment, from pollution to unsustainable farming practices, on land and at sea. According to the Food Organization of the United Nations and agriculture, 3 billion people depend on seafood as their main source of protein. According to Tidal, 90% of wild fish stocks are depleted, with growing populations it’s clear we need to do something about this. So overall, it’s fair to say that conserving our oceans is important to us, and Tidal helps us do that.

Protecting the ocean with technological systems while sustainably feeding humanity

Tidal diagram of their system in action and on location

Tidal’s systems provide vital information and a constant source of data to learn and help understand ecosystems, enabling fish farmers to understand the health of their fish and protect fish farms from pests and pollution. This protects the environment and helps maintain a sustainable source of food. Seems pretty important to me, if that’s not a punchy design, I don’t know what is.

Minus Materials has created a way to produce carbon-neutral Portland cement using micro-algae. The cement industry is responsible for around 7% of global emissions, twice as much as the airline industry. The reason it has such high emissions production is due to the way cement is made. To create cement, limestone is heated, which releases huge amounts of Co2 due to the chemical reactions that occur during the process.

What Minus Materials realized was that by using algae in the cement manufacturing process, they could capture CO2 while shortening the time it takes to produce limestone. They combine biotechnology, engineering and nature to grow carbon negative limestone, great algae!

The product they are able to make is Portland cement, the industry standard, so not only are they able to create carbon negative cement, but they can create a product suitable for the industry. This, combined with clean energy and carbon capture, could make cement production carbon negative.

You can check out Minus Materials here and a great Fast Company article here where I found Minus Materials and got some of this information, well worth reading.

OmiFlo has created hydroponic water systems that turn wastewater into beautiful green spaces, without the use of energy or chemicals. To do this, they use floating wetlands that naturally filter oxygen in sewage through their roots. The system requires no electricity, chemicals, or even proper gardening experience! This opens up the system to virtually anyone, so they can create aesthetically pleasing wastewater treatment while preventing soil contamination.

This has huge implications for areas that lack the facilities to treat wastewater and make it useful for those looking for an aesthetic and low impact solution for wastewater treatment.

You can check out Omiflo here

Watergen creates drinking water from the air. Literally from nothing. They have created a system that produces drinking water from moisture in the air, a solution to the growing problem of depleting drinking water levels across the world. The systems do not require complicated and outdated infrastructure and eliminate the need for groundwater pumping and the worries of polluted springs. This means they can be deployed anywhere and anytime, from rural villages to offices.

This has a massive impact on those with limited access to safe drinking water and also on everyone in the future. With uncertainty surrounding us in all directions, innovations like this could prove vital in the future, without being overly dramatic.

An honorable mention and the one that interests and impresses me the most – Makani was another project born out of Google X company. They used kites to harness wind power to create renewable energy. This is one of my favorite designs, not only because it looks pretty cool, but the application was efficient and something new in the renewable energy world.

Makani aimed to enable more people around the world to have access to clean, affordable wind power by developing energy kites, an airborne wind power technology that used a wing attached to a ground station, to harness the energy of the wind efficiently.

You can see the graph below which shows how it works

Graphic of Makami’s kite operation and one in action

Unfortunately, in 2020, Makani’s journey came to an end. However, in the spirit of their positive and impactful design, the team have created and released “The Energy Kite Collection”, a portfolio of resources including:

This means that airborne wind turbine developers, researchers, aerospace experts and engineering students can use the materials to learn or develop new airborne projects. Basically, a Christmas comes early. Makani was a design that had a positive impact and will continue to do so through open source information

You can check out the project here, it’s worth reading, the team also produced a documentary.

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