Designing the Future

The 10 Best Green Tech Innovations of 2009
1261676629CN SeriousWindows3© Serious Windows

It’s always exciting to spotlight "green" innovations that could change how we view and live in the world. Thanks to the breathtaking pace of development, many items that appeared to be science fiction at the beginning of this decade have become prototypes or commercial products here at the end. Here are E’s 10 favorites, organized by category:


SeriousWindows— : Serious Materials boasts windows that deliver performance four times higher than current Energy Star standards. They soak up waste heat from commercial building appliances, and can even serve as the main heat source in certain applications.

RainTube—: This rain gutter filter from GLI Systems is made from 100% post-consumer, high-concentration polyethylene, and is cradle-to-cradle certified—that is, GLI Systems must implement a post-use recovery plan with every product that ships out.

1261676242CN Acadia 2© Acadia

The Acadia—: Hallowell International’s combined heating and cooling system for commercial buildings helps save up to 70% on energy costs by maintaining 200% efficiency even when outdoor temperatures drop below 0°F.

1261676242CN Greensulate2


Soy-Foam Seats: Ford Motor Company and Lear Corporation have achieved an auto industry first: using "functionalized soybean oil" to manufacture flexible polyurethane foam for automotive seats.Greensulate— : The natural equivalent of Styrofoam, this 100% green insulation is made mostly of mushroom roots, which are pressed into the desired form, dried and ready to install.


Z5—: If independent laboratory tests prove that it works, the Z5 Global Group’s power-efficiency booster, a little pie-shaped alloy cylinder, could be retrofitted on any gas or diesel engine
cutting fuel consumption by up to 40%, increasing horsepower by 10% or better and reducing air pollution in the bargain.

1261676465CN BraviaTV lg1© Sony

Bravia VE5 Eco Series: With a standby mode that uses zero watts, these TVs from Sony use nearly 50% less energy than comparable flat screens. They feature a motion sensor that turns the TV off when you forget to, and a light sensor that enables dynamic backlight control, giving the minimal amount of power needed to best illuminate any room.

Dial4Light: Many communities in Germany turn off their street lighting systems from 11p.m. until dawn to save energy and funds. A pedestrian who wanted to see his way home in the town of Lemgo invented this hand-held device, which signals street lights to illuminate, then to switch off after the user walks by. It’s like a giant motion sensor.


Zenith Solar Z20 Energy Farm: Using curved mirrors that can collect five times more than ordinary solar collectors, the Z20 produces both electric and thermal energy, making solar power cost competitive against fossil fuels for the first time.

1261676465CN Vegawatt© Vegawat

Vegawatt: James Peret serves fish and chips at his Dedham, Massachusetts, restaurant and heats the place with the used cooking oil. The Vegawatt combines an extensive filtration system that feeds a combustion heating unit.

Inventions we could see "on the shelf" as early as 2015 include a tankless SCUBA system that enables humans to breathe underwater; infrared cancer detection, and cancer surgeries done non-invasively using ultrasound; bio-engineered blood vessels that make bypass surgery obsolete; and a "safe" way to clean up and dispose of nuclear wastes called PGM (Plasma-Gasifica-tion-Melting), which transforms radioactive material into inert material and gases that can be used to fuel gas turbine electric power plants. The future, from where we’re standing, looks very green indeed.

MARTIN WESTERMAN is an environmental author and sustainable business specialist.