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A Critical Look at Claims for Green Technologies

Green technologies are not yet proved, affordable, or deployable—but even if they were, it would still take them generations to solve our environmental problems

6 min read
Illustration: Stuart Bradford
Illustration: Stuart Bradford

When a bright new idea comes along, it’s easy to imagine a fantastic future for it. Perhaps the best example of this is Ray Kurzweil’s Singularity, scheduled to arrive in 2045, which will supposedly bring “immortal software-based humans, and ultra-high levels of intelligence that expand outward in the universe at the speed of light.” Not to be left behind, a former Google X senior executive says that “everything you see in sci-fi movies is going to happen.” Not just something, mind you, but everything.

Compared with such utterly ahistorical visions, unmoored from reality, the articles gathered in this issue are actually quite tame. They promise only a long-lasting supply of affordable and clean energy—either through nuclear fission or through electricity derived from burning (yes, burning) CO2—and a surfeit of food from a variety of sources: vertical farms based in cities, crops that will need almost no fertilizer, and environmentally friendly meat substitutes.

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For Better AR Cameras, Swap Plastic Lenses for Silicon Chips

Metalenz adds the power of polarization to its innovative PolarEyes chips

5 min read
Silicon Nanostructures

Metalenz uses standard semiconductor manufacturing processes to build metasurfaces comprising nanostructures that control light, with one chip replacing multiple traditional camera lenses.

Metalenz

This week, startup Metalenz announced that it has created a silicon chip that, paired with an image sensor, can distinguish objects by the way they polarize light. The company says its “PolarEyes” will be able to make facial authentication less vulnerable to spoofing, improve 3D imaging for augmented and virtual reality, aid in telehealth by distinguishing different types of skin cells, and enhance driving safety by spotting black ice and other hard-to-see road hazards.

The company, founded in 2017 and exiting stealth a year ago, previously announced that it was commercializing waveguides composed of silicon nanostructures as an alternative to traditional optics for use in mobile devices.

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How Quantum Computers Can Make Batteries Better

Hyundai partners with IonQ to optimize lithium-air batteries

3 min read
A tan car with a Hyundai logo. Overlayed is a rendering of lithium-air batteries with a call-out showing a rendering of a molecular compound
Hyundai

Hyundai is now partnering with startup IonQ to see how quantum computers can design advanced batteries for electric vehicles, with the aim of creating the largest battery chemistry model yet to be run on a quantum computer, the companies announced yesterday.

A quantum computer with high enough complexity—for instance, enough components known as quantum bits or "qubits"—could theoretically achieve a quantum advantage where it can find the answers to problems no classical computer could ever solve. In theory, a quantum computer with 300 qubits fully devoted to computing could perform more calculations in an instant than there are atoms in the visible universe.

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Electric utility infrastructure habitually falls prey to overgrown Right-of-Way, high winds, and harsh weather. Impactful events causing outages are increasing in frequency, and need to be endured without major disruptions in electric service. This webinar will discuss the application of covered aerial conductor to "harden" the electric utility grid so that unpredictable events don't result in unsustainable outages.

Speaker:

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