Time has released its 50 Best Inventions of 2008 list and a full dozen of the spots are occupied by either cleantech startups or energy ideas. From floating data centers to high-flying wind turbines, Time thinks some of the coolest inventions of the year are clean and green. We couldn’t agree more. Here are the cleantech highlights that Time thought were noteworthy.
2. The Tesla Roadster: Even though the company has hit a rough patch as of late, the Roadster is an undeniable automotive force that has electrified the industry. We’ll see how long it takes for the Model S to deliver a car to the masses.
7. The Chevy Volt: The range-extended electric offering is a bridge to full-on electric cars. GM hopes that it will also be able to prop up its faltering business. Too bad a slew of competitors are debuting all-electric models the same year.
11. Green Crude: The prospect of making a carbon-neutral crude from biomass that can be refined and transported in the existing oil infrastructure has given birth to a significant number of startups – Sapphire Energy, Aquaflow Bionomic, Live Fuels and Solix Biofuels, to name a few. And now even big players like Dow Chemical, Boeing and UOP are getting in on the action.
21. The Synthetic Organism “Life by design” is Craig Venter’s idea. Being able to build organisms to spec could allow for breakthroughs in medicine and energy. Venter’s Synthetic Genomics is currently working on a microbe, which he says will be ready within the next year, that will eat carbon dioxide and secrete fuel.
25. Thin-Film Solar Panels: Nanosolar has made a lot of headlines with its goal of printing cheap solar panels. A slew of startups, like Xunlight, HelioVolt, OptiSolar and Innovalight, along with larger players like Sharp, LG and Intel, are racing toward the same goal.
31. Einstein’s Fridge: Scientists at Oxford University have resurrected a design for a low-energy refrigerator that Einstein patented in 1930. Instead of harmful freon, the design uses ammonia, butane and water — and a fraction of the energy. It’ll take some tweaking to boost the efficiency, but the researchers say it could work.
33. Biomechanical Energy Harvester: The hustle and bustle of the average day is full of energy, we just need to figure out how to capture that motion. M2E is working on a “battery” that could convert kinetic energy into electrical energy to power military devices or even your cell phone.
35. Airborne Wind Power: The energy of wind is related to the cube of its velocity, meaning faster wind is much more energetic. Those high-speed winds are high up and startups like Makani Power and WindLift are sending kites up to bring the energy down.
37. Smog-Eating Cement: Italian firm Italcementi claims its cement, called TX Active, can eat up nasty smog particles. A number of startups are also working to make cement greener — Hycrete and Arxx have both pulled in big backers for cleaner, greener concrete.
41. The Peraves MonoTracer: With a BMW engine and a look straight out of “Minority Report,” the Peraves MonoTracer is part car, part motorcycle and all about fuel efficiency. The vehicle gets 65 miles to the gallon and can go from 0 to 60 mph in under 5 seconds.
47. Google’s Floating Data Center: Not so much an invention as an awesome idea, Google made waves with a patent filing it made that suggests the idea of a “water-based data center” that floats on a platform and uses “a sea-based electrical generator” and “sea-water cooling units.”