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Five technology breakthroughs that will play a major role in our future

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Five technology breakthroughs that will play a major role in our futureFive technology breakthroughs that will play a major role in our future

News24xx.com - Close your eyes and imagine life in the future : vertical farms soaring into the skies, luxurious underwater homes, robots to free you from menial tasks. Whatever scenario you conjure, one thing is certain – all of these will need energy. Here are five technological breakthroughs that are poised to redefine our future.

 

1. Carbon capture
Fossil fuel – oil, coal or natural gas – contributes to about 80% of the world’s energy needs. But burning it also releases carbon dioxide into our atmosphere, trapping heat and creating a phenomenon known as the greenhouse effect, which has an impact on the environment.

Now, wouldn’t it be great if we could somehow capture carbon dioxide before it is released into the atmosphere?

ExxonMobil is a leader in this area, with a working interest in over a third of the world’s existing carbon-capture-and-storage capacity.

Since 1996, ExxonMobil and its partners have been capturing and sequestering carbon dioxide at the Sleipner gas field in Norway. In 2014, it captured more than six million metric tons of carbon dioxide for storage (the equivalent of eliminating the annual carbon emission of one million cars).

The new technology not only reduces the amount of carbon dioxide released, it could reduce costs, too – an important step towards making carbon capture a standard practice around the world.


2. Cogeneration
Apart from capturing greenhouse gases, technology can also be used make processes more energy efficient. This is at the heart of cogeneration.

Cogeneration or combined heat and power (CHP) captures a large part of waste thermal (or heat) energy created during the production of electricity or refining and chemical operations, and recycles it for other uses.

With cogeneration, two types of energy – electricity and heat – are simultaneously produced from a single fuel source, making cogeneration highly energy efficient.


3. Butyl rubber tyres
Research into energy is not limited to fuel sources alone. How to reduce fuel usage is just an important, and ExxonMobil has been looking at a unique way to tackle the issue – rubber tyres.

Tyres that hold air better, and that are more resilient and longer-lasting make the vehicles more fuel economical – meaning more efficient fuel usage and less carbon emission.

Did you know that ExxonMobil is a pioneer in tyre technology? Its scientists created synthetic rubber or butyl rubber in the 1930s, when natural rubber production could not keep up with increasing demand.

Since then, it has built on that technology to produce the more advanced halobutyl rubber, now used to make modern tyres more durable. Longer-lasting tires save about a billion gallons of fuel and reduce eight million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.


4. Petroleum-based polymers
Another way to improve fuel economy is to reduce the weight of vehicles – by being lighter, less fuel is needed.

As an energy company, ExxonMobil has invested heavily in driving innovating in the petrochemicals sector. The company produces petroleum-based polymers that are used in car braking systems, car bodies and even batteries that power electric cars.

All these products make it possible for plastics to make up 50% of the volume of today’s cars (while contributing to only 10% of the weight!). That means every unit of fuel used in our vehicles goes a longer way.


5. Advanced biofuels
ExxonMobil is known as an oil and gas company, but it is by no means limited to traditional fuels. In fact, its teams have been researching and working on developing biofuels.

One major possibility is algae. Yes, the very same algae that grows in your fish tank.

Why algae? It is not such a far-fetched idea when you consider that traditional fossil fuel, when you break it down, is really just very old algae and plants.

The fuel that comes from algae oils also produces 50 per cent less greenhouse gases compared to petroleum products. Best of all, oils produced from algae can potentially be processed in conventional refineries. No special equipment is required.

A fuel source that’s cheap, environmentally friendly and does not take up much of our scarce resources?

That’s a dream that will hopefully turn into a reality.

(***)

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