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These 5 imec innovations help us live a more sustainable life

We help you charge your electric car in a smart way

Experts expect the number of electric cars on the road to increase significantly in the future. But if we all switch to electric vehicles; how do we make sure that our power grid can handle the increased pressure?

Now the charging starts immediately after a vehicle is connected to a charging station. This often leads to peaks in demand because people’s charging behavior tends to be rather similar. After parking, everyone immediately plugs in their car so all vehicles are charged more or less simultaneously.

In addition, cars often remain plugged into the charging station much longer than necessary. That’s why IDLab Gent (an imec research group at UGent) is working on a coordinated smart scenario where a central system – per car park or even per city – decides when each vehicle is charged.

More information about this smart scenario can be found here.

We make from megatons of waste, tons of opportunities

The solar photovoltaic (PV) energy industry is experiencing a radical growth, particularly over the last decade. On the shadow side of this success, the number of PV modules that reach the end of their useful first-life will also greatly increase. Today, by default, once PV modules are decommissioned, they enter the waste stream and are either disposed or recycled.

With the EU-Horizon 2020 project CIRCUSOL, imec and its partners strive towards a circular supply chain that includes recycling, recovery of raw materials, repair/refurbishment and even re-use of decommissioned or failed PV modules.

For example, it was discovered that about half of the PV modules in the waste stream can still be repaired or upgraded for reuse.

Read all about it in this imec magazine article.

We teach tomato plants to talk

Imec and Holst Centre have developed a fluid sensor for agriculture and horticulture. Examples include the hydroculture of lettuce or other crops and how these sensors can provide highly localized information about the composition of the feedwater being used.

This way, farmers can have their own ‘control room’, with screens providing a clear visual display of areas that have problems with nutrients or too little water, so that they know where action is needed. It also means that disease can be nipped in the bud, as it were. We are also working on visualizing the data and the way it is processed and interpreted so that the grower can take properly informed decisions.

Discover more about this topic in this article.

We make a surface the size of a football field fit into a half empty soda can

Not literally, of course, but we did develop together with KU Leuven a novel nanomesh material that could mean a breakthrough in a variety of sustainable-application sectors. The new material is an extremely regular three-dimensional (metal) grid at the nanometre scale. The new nanomesh material is a three-dimensional nanometer-scale (metal) grid structure with highly regular internal dimensions. Thanks to a combination of its unique material properties and the ease of manufacturing, it holds the promise to become widely applicable in (sustainable) industrial applications. Think about more efficient batteries, better catalytic convertors, fuel cells and hydrogen production.

As a result, it combines high porosity with an unprecedented surface-to-volume ratio. For each micrometer thickness, there is a 26-fold increase of available surface area. To visualize this: when filling a volume of a small can of soda, it would remain 75% empty while containing a surface area equal to the size of a football field. A-ha, that's why!

Want to read more? You can find the press release here.

We do urban farming

Sustainability starts with producing and consuming food locally as much as possible, ideally within 5 to 10 kilometers of our homes. As most people live in cities – and urbanization is expected to increase even more in the future – city farms are a sensible solution.

This is a trend that has already been set in motion with several cities experimenting with vertical indoor farms. Here food is produced in vertically stacked layers in warehouses or apartment buildings. By creating the ideal, these indoor farms are able to produce food faster and all year round.

The technology that drives this kind of farming – such as the ion (fluid) sensor developed by imec to monitor the needs of individual plants – will be fine-tuned further. Local city farms will soon become commonplace.

We'll tell you more about local production and consumption in this imec magazine article.

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