The year 2021 exposed in a burdensome way how much the world has grown together – and at the same time hasn’t: While some rich industrial nations had to dispose of massive unused doses of the new liquid gold – the SARSCoV-2 vaccines –, in many poorer countries there was and still is not only a shortage of vaccines, but also a fatal scarcity of protective gear like surgical masks. New mutations of the coronavirus developed almost unhinderedly due to the local lack of protective equipment and, in some cases, still single-digit vaccination rates before spreading rapidly across the entire globe.
This demonstrates the bitter scope of the fact that in international crises thinking and acting still take place too much within national boundaries. But the challenges of the present and the future do not stop at frontiers. The pandemic is only one of many examples. The problem could also be illustrated by the case of harmful pesticides: Even if substances under criticism are banned in EU countries, for example, they are still standards in agriculture on many other continents and easily find their way into our meadows, rivers, forests, and onto our plates.
Be it through imported food and ingredients or the natural water cycle. Traces of plant toxins could even be detected in remote corners of the earth such as the Arctic or coral reefs. The time when each nation could do their own thing is long over, and yet it is still a sad reality. Targets to reduce CO2 emissions, ban single-use plastic, preserve biodiversity and many other topics of global importance could hardly be addressed more unequally in different countries.
But the consequences affect the entire earth. An opportunity for companies with a vision While the global approach of political efforts often fails at the limits of their respective power, companies with foresight and good networking now have the opportunity to build these bridges and carry solutions into the world. This, however, also means that every innovation must be examined concerning its impact on other nations, future generations, and the environment. Previous revolutionary improvements and simplifications in life usually came with a burden on the environment.
From the internal combustion engine to plastic as a practical material for all possible applications to highly efficient monocultural agriculture: nature and later generations were too often those who had to pay and who now have to curb the consequences. Today we can no longer afford to implement new developments without considering their long-term effects. Technologies, products, and services have to go hand in hand with the environment if we want to counter the climate crisis, the extinction of species, global hunger, and the steadily growing garbage heaps globally, so that we can leave a liveable world to future generations.
Optimizing excellent ideas
However, new developments do not always meet the high demands of our time right away. True to the motto “making excellent things even better”, we at Nanopool have made it our mission to optimize products and services in terms of their durability, environmental compatibility, and safety with a unique technology that can be made accessible costeffectively and decentralised in all regions of the world.
In years of interdisciplinary research, we have developed a solution based on simple laws of nature that on the one hand increases the longevity and hygiene of objects and at the same time reduces the need for chemical cleaning agents and toxins as well as CO2 emissions and the consumption of resources such as drinking water. An ultra-thin barrier layer, which provides both inorganic and organic surfaces with new, intelligent properties, optimizes products of all kinds in terms of their safety and sustainability. This supports companies and organizations in the realization of visionary goals:
• Fully compostable paper and pulp-fibre packaging are functionalised by the barrier layer to such an extent that they can be used as foodsafe and stable alternatives to conventional plastic products.
• Seeds, plants, and fruits are protected so efficiently against mould, pests, and germs that the use of toxic pesticides can be dispensed with. This not only benefits the health of people and the topsoil but also counteracts the increasing death of bees. Although it will be possible to specifically keep away or attract insects through the use of repellent and attractive fragrances, this will in no way harm biodiversity.
• Simple textile face masks and street clothing can easily be equipped with antimicrobial protection and can therefore be used as hygienic alternatives when protective gear is scarce. Since there is no danger to people or the environment when applying the barrier layer either, this can easily be implemented directly in situ by end-users without any special precautions.
• In public buildings, healthcare, and educational institutions, in companies and private surroundings, the protective barrier functionalizes contact surfaces with repellent proper ties which make cleaning so much easier, that conventional chemical agents are no longer needed. This not only significantly reduces water pollution, but long-term tests in a healthcare facility have also shown that the measurable bacterial load and thus the hygiene standard achieved on those surfaces with the barrier layer were significantly higher.
• Objects of daily use become more durable with the protective layer, which not only reduces the amount of waste but also the CO2 emissions when new replacing goods are produced. The barrier layer itself is based on silicon dioxide, which can be completely returned into the natural cycle. A corresponding network of international partners is given, the solution can be manufactured in a decentralized manner in all regions of the world so that neither unnecessary CO2 emission nor time or costs are incurred for complex transport. Plus, the protective layer can be applied easily in the shortest possible time, if necessary.
A sustainable and fair future
Having in mind the technical issues of the years to come, ingenious solutions can become even safer and more sustainable with this protective barrier: Consider, for example, the foreseeable developments in the area of mobility. Autonomous driving and car-sharing are without a doubt the future of passenger transport. But with shared vehicles, the question of hygiene safety arises not only in pandemic times.
The acceptance of such environmentally friendly solutions stands or falls with the comfort factor of the user, which is affected by invisible but harmful germs as well as by simple dirt. Equipping all materials in the interior with repellent and antimicrobial properties can therefore be a game-changer. Renewable energy generation can also become even more efficient with an intelligent protective barrier, because, despite all technological progress, we will always have to struggle with very conventional challenges: In local energy generation like rooftop solar projects, an uncomplicated solution against acidic bird droppings, which can burn into the glass surface when exposed to sunlight and irreparably damage the system, continues to gain in importance.
The repellent barrier layer reduces the adhesion of such substances so much that they can simply be washed off with the next rain without any mechanical impact. The layer is so thin that it does not affect the efficiency of the systems in any way. The same applies to sensors, which in the context of smart cities are increasingly determining urban life through intelligent data acquisition and evaluation and must be protected accordingly against weather and dirt. Because the longer these systems are in operation, the lower the pollutant emissions from new production or disposal. This approach can be further developed in many areas of current and future urban life: charging stations for e-mobility, for example, which are increasingly shaping our streetscapes, must be protected against exhaust fumes, but also graffiti, stickers, and chewing gum residues to meet the requirements of a city’s image.
And talking about transportation, let’s take a look at future tube and loop systems: Alternative transportation such as the high-speed system “Hyperloop” by Elon Musk is being researched and developed under high pressure. The aerodynamics and the low friction in these tube systems can be optimized in the long term by means of a repellent protective barrier layer. After all, surface protection technology is already increasing reflection and thus safety in tunnels in Europe and Asia. Company values with a win-win character In the future, technological innovators will generally have to answer three questions:
• How does an invention make life better?
• How can this be brought in line with protecting our environment?
• And: is it possible to create equal opportunities for all regions of the world?
For too long the progress of some countries has been at the expense of the living conditions of others. Thinking globally and sustainably will no longer remain a “nice to have” for companies, nor will greenwashing be a way of creating a good image. However, the close cooperation and global networking with innovation partners offer exciting opportunities to master these challenges and ultimately see winners on all sides.
Founder | Senator,
Nanopool GmbH | European Senate of Economy and Technology.