Europe has set a course for a low-carbon economy, but what does this mean in practice? This month, Horizon looks at the carbon-free innovations set to change our lives, from neighbourhoods that can produce more energy than they consume, to Europe's renewable energy cooperatives. We also explore new technologies to minimise the risk of nuclear meltdown, and find out how a tie-up between researchers in the EU and North Africa could help bring renewable energy innovations to the Mediterranean region.
Fukushima, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island - all three nuclear disasters were caused by human error, in one form or another. Now researchers are working on ways to ensure nuclear power plants remain safe – by making safety systems that can operate automatically.
A growing number of environmentally minded people are putting their money where their mouths are and directly investing in projects such as solar and wind farms, thanks to a rise in community-based financing schemes such as crowdfunding and renewable energy cooperatives.
An experimental project connecting renewable energy researchers in the EU with colleagues in Morocco and Tunisia could help pave the way for a market in renewable energy and energy efficiency that spans the Mediterranean, according to Claude Ayache, senior advisor for European affairs at the EU’s public-private green energy partnership, InnoEnergy.
In its landmark report in October, the UN's International Panel on Climate Change said that every package of measures we choose to limit global temperature rises to 1.5°C must include a way of removing carbon dioxide emissions from the air and reusing or storing them. This month, Horizon looks at what's being done to advance these carbon capture, storage and utilisation technologies. We talk to one expert who is trying to trap emissions from the cement industry before they are released, and find out how International Space Station technology is inspiring the capture of ambient carbon dioxide. We also investigate how captured CO2 can be reused, and examine just how safe it is to store the gas underground.
Dumped waste, from used nappies to industrial by-products, have long wound up in landfills and can take hundreds of years to decay. In October we speak to the scientists figuring out how to keep such items in use to reduce rubbish and create a so-called circular economy. We learn about new efforts to mine industrial waste for the rare metals that go into making aircraft parts, pacemakers and bicycle gears, and find out about the culture shift needed to develop a zero-waste society. We also speak to the researchers building a biorefinery to turn soiled nappies into fertilisers and raw materials, and look at whether seaweed could become the next plastic.
Video games that are specifically designed to test and improve children’s social and emotional skills could enable parents and teachers to spot issues and help children improve their behaviour and performance at school as well as in later life.
A new type of use-by label for milk bottles that decomposes as the liquid inside goes sour could appear on UK supermarket shelves later this year. Labels such as these, capable of telling consumers exactly when fresh produce has gone bad, are being developed by scientists who want to stop food from being prematurely discarded. If successful, these indicators have the potential to reduce the millions of tonnes of valuable food thrown away each year.
Identifying behavioural issues early on can help improve outcomes in later life.
Wireless tags and indicators that mimic decomposition could replace expiry dates.
Deploying this technology rests on successfully making a business case to companies, says Kristin Jordal.