Promising Technology:

Breaking Resource Boundaries

Our Art-Driven Innovation database includes projects from the following sub-fields of this theme:

Bioplastics are plastics made from carbon renewable natural feedstock in different proportions. These may include corn, rice, potatoes, palm fibre, tapioca, wheat fibres, wood cellulose and bagasse. Depending on their chemical composition and percentage of biobased ingredients, bioplastics may or may not be biodegradable. Bioplastics are used in different industries like food and beverage packaging, health care, textiles, agricultural, automotive or electronics. The main advantage of bioplastics is the fact that they leave a smaller energy footprint and they produce less pollution.

As the number of natural disasters is expected to increase and the risk of flooding for many coastal cities has risen significantly, it is becoming imperative to find ways to adapt to increasingly frequent and devastating environmental crises. Futures studies, in Asia in particular, focus on technologies for predicting natural hazards. Earthquake prediction, prevention in case of earthquakes, tsunamis, volcano activities and heavy rain are very high on the agenda in Asian Foresight processes. Also, emergency systems, rescue robots, complete rescue systems, and information systems for citizens (during and after a disaster) are in development for these cases. Prevention with scenarios on the one hand, and technology development on the other hand is in the forefront, but there are also efforts to limit the negative effects of a disaster with technologies, e.g. rescue robots.

New knowledge from living in space and new underwater projects will improve the prospects of living below the surface. But for large-scale habitats like cities or villages, there seems to be a long way to go. The start is seen for trained specialist, for example those people who exploit resources, harvest in underwater gardens, need to be at the location or for researchers. As housing space on land is scarce, coastal areas are more and more detected for living. The first undersea habitats are rather expected to be located close to the coast providing a living for more and more people, and making use of the space when sea levels rise because of climate change.

“There are attempts to develop more technologies that recover the different resources from wastewater, but most developments will be improved in an incremental way. The general principle is clear, though: the scarcer the resource, the larger the investment in recovery. The amount of nutrients that can be gained from wastewater altogether may firstly be high for feedstock, followed by very scarce resources and those that can be filtered out in larger masses. To make use of wastewater as a source on a large scale will be the real breakthrough.

Nutrient recovery is the practice of recovering nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus from used water streams that would otherwise be discarded and converting them into an environmental friendly fertilizer used for ecological and agricultural purposes. Nutrient recovery is one of the highlighted developments in wastewater treatment. Biological technologies, advanced reuse and recycling techniques and green-based practices “have led to various economic, environmental and societal benefits that can help reduce costs, conserve energy, sustain the environment, and improve customer service.” A special case is Biological phosphate removal (BPR).”

Asteroid mining refers to harvesting raw materials from asteroids and other small celestial bodies, primarily near-Earth objects (NEOs), a category that also includes comets. The list of minerals that could, in principle, be exploited is quite large. Some would be worth transporting back to earth – gold, iridium, silver, osmium, palladium, platinum, rhenium, rhodium, ruthenium, or tungsten. Others could be used for in-space construction – iron, cobalt, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, aluminium, or titanium. The long-term challenges of such an enterprise include building the mining installations on NEOs and shipping the raw materials back to Earth.

As the Earth’s mineral resources deplete, asteroids will provide a cache of essential materials that will not be available or will be increasingly harder to mine on our planet. According to the latest Goldman Sachs report, asteroid mining could be a trillion-dollar business.

Explanation texts per field are taken from and inspired on:
European Commission, 100 Radical Innovation Breakthroughs for the future (2019) ISBN 978-92-79-99139-4