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Machines for the environment: 10 Simple machines that made our lives more sustainable

Machines for the environment_ 10 Simple (but revolutionary) machines that have made our lives more sustainable
Photo by the UN-aligned design team.

Your home appliances used to be slow, smelly and awful for the environment. Thanks to new technology and the modern machine things have changed: here are 10 new tech that has helped us increase our efficiency and make our lives more sustainable.

The advent of machines has heralded a new dawn for Homo Sapiens. Machines date back to antiquity. They have been ubiquitous right from the era of the first industrial revolution till the present, contemporary fourth industrial revolution. From tangible mechanical gears to the intangible virtual space, the progress mankind has made in the field of technology from the 1st Industrial Revolution to the 4th has been stupendous and awe inspiring. The effects of machines on our homes has been astounding. 

Let us first take the example of appliances which help us in our domestic chores. The incredible growth in this sector has brought numerous user-friendly and convenient gadgets to the fore. 

A cooking stove is machine that has made our lives more sustainable

1. Cooking stoves

Charcoal stoked cooking stoves, which we used earlier, now seem antediluvian. They were inefficient and detrimental for health. The emission of harmful gases and particulate matter emission in the form of PM 2.5 had a deleterious effect on the pulmonary health. Among these deleterious gases, Carbon Monoxide is particularly dangerous. Carbon Monoxide has been observed to plummet the values of oxygen carrying Hemoglobin rapidly leading to Hypoxemia. These stoves were replaced by Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG) fuelled stoves. 

However, these stoves were also found to be inefficient as a lot of heat was wasted in the hot exhaust gases, which could not be recycled. These stoves also emitted Carbon Dioxide, which contributed to the greenhouse effect and global warming. 

The solution has come with the introduction of electrical energy powered induction cooking ovens in our kitchens. The most significant advantage with these ovens is that the heating rate and the heating time can be tailored as per requirement, mitigating electrical energy wastage. 

Further, these ovens are powered by electronic sensors, enabling them to switch off automatically when no load is present. The problem of clogging observed in LPG gas stoves is also not present in these induction ovens. Additionally, Electrical Induction Ovens have helped to mitigate Levelized Costs by reducing Variable Costs. They have also removed the hassles associated with cylinder refill or charcoal purchase. 

2. Food mixers

High power mixers operating at very high rotational speeds help us to produce fine food batter in the blink of an eyelid. The older mixers used mechanical gears to obtain high values of rotational speeds. The problem of mechanical wear was rife with this mechanism. With the introduction of Variable Frequency Drives based mixers, we could obtain a high value of rotational speed without the use of mechanical gears, thereby eliminating the problems associated with them. We could reduce servicing costs and increase the life of the appliance. 

3. Refrigerators

Further, refrigerators have augmented the shelf life of the perishable food items, particularly those containing a lot of water. These items were more prone to microbial growth. The older refrigerator versions we used had low Coefficients of Performance (COP), leading to unnecessary energy wastage. The modern refrigerators we use have high COPs, leading to an enhanced cooling effect at lower values of electricity consumption. The enhanced COP reiterates the philosophy that “Energy Saved is Energy Generated”.

Air conditioners are machines that have made our lives more sustainable

4. Air conditioners

Another area which has witnessed revolutionary development is the area of heating, ventilation and air conditioning. As vast swathes of India fall within the Tropic of Cancer and the Equator and also within the SubTropical High Pressure Belts, India receives high solar insolation. This leads to high daytime temperatures during summers.  

Air conditioners (AC) we use at our homes help to keep the scorching summer heat at bay and stave off ennui. Under normal summer conditions (when the AC is switched off), heat would flow from the hot surroundings to the cool room until equilibrium is obtained. 

ACs use electrical energy to power compressors to defy that natural direction of heat flow. This ensures that heat is constantly rejected from the cooler room to the hotter surroundings. 

The introduction of variable tonnage ACs has ensured that the cooling rate can be automatically varied with the number of persons present in the room i.e. depending on the amount of heat that is to be extracted per unit time, thereby optimizing energy consumption. 

Additionally, features like High Torque Compressors and Active Dehumidifiers ensure indomitable cooling and dehumidification even in very hot and humid environments, where water coolers seize to operate efficiently. Further, windows with high selectivity ensure more energy transfer in the visible spectrum (light energy) and less energy transfer in the infrared spectrum (heat energy) during summer months. This helps to reduce the power drawn by air conditioners and lighting appliances. 

5. Home lighting

Now, let us explore the electrifying innovations in the field of lighting. Earlier, lighting was done using Incandescent Lamps. In these lamps, a lot of energy was wasted in the form of heat. This wastage in the form of heat was reduced in Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL). 

However, the heat loss was still significant. Blue Light Emitting Diodes (LED), which we presently use, have reduced this problem to a great extent by harnessing the band gap of semiconductor materials (Indium Gallium Nitride) very efficiently. This ensures high illumination and low heat emission at lower active electrical power consumption/wattage. 

6. Inverter batteries

The modern Inverter-Battery Setup proves to be a stellar appliance during blackouts. It provides us with round the clock uninterrupted power supply. This is of particular significance for the elderly who require perpetual prop from medical equipment like Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) and Oxygen Concentrators to maintain the normal flow of Oxygen in their bloodstreams. 

The invention of voice controlled fans, lights and medical aids have made life easier for them, when they are infirm. The Inverter-Battery setup is also invaluable for the younger generations to achieve Work From Home (WFH) and Study From Home (SFH). The Inverter-Battery setup ensures Wi-Fi routers, laptops and smartphones can operate continuously without getting discharged. Over the Top (OTT) platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney + Hotstar etc. have ensured that we can amuse ourselves by watching our favourite television shows and sports events sans rigid time constraints on our laptops and smartphones. 

The utility of WFH, SFH and OTT was felt particularly during the period of the zoonotic pandemic COVID 19 as we were forced to manacle ourselves to the confines of our homes to prevent the pandemic from exacerbating.

solar panels have made our lives more sustainable

7. Solar panels

Solar Photovoltaic Panels are now omnipresent throughout the globe. Solar panels have provided us the golden opportunity of contributing to the process of energy transition and becoming ingenious “Prosumers” instead of mundane “Consumers”. 

This has allowed people to proudly promote the concept of Hybrid microgrids, Eco-friendly power generation technology, Decarbonization, Decentralization and Digitalization. 

Nowadays, smart meters are available in our homes which easily help us monitor our instantaneous electricity consumption and Time of the Day tariffs.

These meters help us to plan when to charge our electric appliance, when to prepare food and when to perform other power intensive chores in a manner that our electricity bills are maintained at an optimum level.

8, 9 & 10. Transportation, cameras and drones

The concept of city transportation is also undergoing a radical shift. Polluting, boisterous and wear prone Internal Combustion Engine powered vehicles are being replaced by Plug-In Battery Electric Vehicles. The concept of gasoline and diesel refilling is slowly being replaced from the conventional concept of visiting petrol pumps to the concept of home based charging kiosks. 

This has reduced the idling time in gasoline pumps, apart from providing a detailed indication of the State of Charge of our electric vehicles via mobile apps. This has ensured a hassle free charging process from the comfort of our homes.

CCTV cameras with Night Vision and interactive app based controls help to ensure uninterrupted surveillance of our homes irrespective of our actual location. 

Drones are helping us to clean, disinfect and repair the inaccessible areas in our homes from the comfort of our rooms and with the click of a button. 

Other machines & technologies to come

It is an inexorable fact that machines have become an inseparable part of our lives. They have undoubtedly augmented our standard of living and have made us dexterous, sagacious and productive. The persistently evolving nature of technology agglomerated with the fidelity and reliability of machines augurs well for the future of mankind. 

Policies should be formulated by federal and state governments in a manner such that polluting technologies are discouraged via apposite mechanisms like Carbon Tax or Emission Trading Scheme. 

The onus also lies on us to extol and hasten the adoption of eco-friendly technologies. This would harbinger the successful development and commercialization of technically efficient, economically viable and environmentally sustainable technologies and appliances. 

These developments would be in line with the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement and ensure that the adage “Environment and Development go hand in hand” is upheld in both letter and spirit. 

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