Innovation at Kazakhstan’s EXPO

| September 30, 2017 | 0 Comments
Nur Alem, Kazakhstan's breath-taking central pavilion at EXPO, which ran from June until September this year, will now be turned into a science museum. Several entries at EXPO's best practices pavilion took innovation to new heights. (Photo: EXPO 2017)

Nur Alem, Kazakhstan’s breath-taking central pavilion at EXPO, which ran from June until September this year, will now be turned into a science museum. Several entries at EXPO’s best practices pavilion took innovation to new heights. (Photo: EXPO 2017)

Innovation need not be complicated. In fact, some of the most ingenious submissions to EXPO 2017’s Energy Best Practices Pavilion were the kinds of things that make you slap your forehead and ask, “Why didn’t I think of that?”
The theme of EXPO 2017, held between June and September in Astana, Kazakhstan’s young, thoroughly modern and architecturally captivating capital city, was “future energy” and submissions had to be focused on that theme.
Canada’s submission — a device from the University of Alberta’s faculty of medicine and dentistry that is saving lives “off the grid” — was a simple, yet elegant, solution to a pervasive global problem. It was chosen from 100 entries to be showcased in this special pavilion, along with 23 other successful entries from 13 different countries.
The problem the University of Alberta was trying to solve? Pneumonia — the leading cause of death for all children under five years old across the planet. The solution: Oxygen therapy. But how to get it to the far-flung, energy-poor developing countries that pneumonia ravages most? Power it with the sun, of course. It’s already saving lives in Uganda and it’s doing it sustainably.
Canada’s other appearance at EXPO was at a showcase in the business pavilion, highlighting the work of Cameco Corp., the Saskatchewan-based giant that works with uranium-rich Kazakhstan to refine its raw materials into power-making nuclear technology. Inkai Uranium, which is jointly owned by Cameco and Kazakhstan’s KazAtomProm, is a uranium mine in Kazakhstan. This exhibit detailed how Cameco and KazAtomProm work together to produce uranium for nuclear power. Indeed, Cameco is the world’s second-largest uranium producer, accounting for 18 per cent of the planet’s production.
Canada didn’t have its own pavilion in the park — nor did it in 2014 when EXPO was in Milan, Italy — but many other countries were represented and the specialized science fair revolved around the jewel of all the pavilions — Kazakhstan’s entry, known as Nur Alem. A huge, dome-shaped structure, it featured exhibits on eight floors, including educational panels and artifacts, art installations, live performances showcasing human kinetics and live science experiments. Each floor featured themes such as space, solar, wind, biomass, kinetic and water energy, and came up with creative ways to highlight each one’s potential. Long after the fanfare of the world fair is over, this pavilion will remain and serve as a science museum.
Other highlights from the Best Practices Pavilion:

Glowee: From France, Glowee’s technology finds itself where biomimicry and synthetic biology meet. The company has developed light from a biological marine source found in organisms such as jellyfish, squid, algae and shrimp. These species produce light naturally through bioluminescence. Using the genetic coding from marine bacteria, Glowee then produces a biological source of light that doesn’t harm the bacteria and that is self-sufficient and requires no installation infrastructure.

bioo: Proving that flora has energy-giving qualities, Spain’s bioo has developed technology that allows it to harness the energy produced by everyday house plants to power everything from lamps to laptops with no harm to humans, and minimal carbon impact. A small house plant can provide enough energy to light two house lamps every hour.

Scooser: Germany’s Scooser is electric, but it will also run on “impulse” drive where the smart-technology engine reads your push from the ground and takes off at speeds of up to five kilometres per hour. Its battery works for two to four hours or for a distance of 55 kilometres.

Greenrail: An entry by Italy and funded by the European Union, Greenrail sleepers are covers for the concrete structures that hold up rail ties. The covers are made from recaptured and recycled rubber and plastic and significantly reduce rail vibration, noise, ballast pulverization and maintenance costs. The sleepers, which increase the lifespan of these concrete anchors by three to four times, can also economically be fitted with solar panels that can provide up to 150 kilowatt hours of electrical power. That power can, in turn, light up the railways or neighbouring streets.

Formula e: This electric racing vehicle by France’s Renault can reach speeds of 235 kilometres per hour and can attain speeds of 100 kilometres per hour in just three seconds. The battery will allow for 25 or 30 minutes of driving, but the races are one hour long, so each driver has two cars, one of which will spell off the other. Two other solar vehicles mentioned in the Kazakhstani pavilion were the BOcruiser, a solar-powered electric car with a top speed of 120 kilometres per hour, and the Stella, a solar-powered family car that generates more energy over the course of a year than it consumes.

France’s Renault makes "Formula e" racing cars. (Photo: Jennifer Campbell)

France’s Renault makes “Formula e” racing cars. (Photo: Jennifer Campbell)

Pavegen: This British innovation gathers kinetic energy generated by humans walking on the sidewalk or attending a sporting event, for example, and converts it into electric energy and data. The technology is currently operating in more than 30 countries, including Kazakhstan, and the company refers to it as “the Internet of People; making cities smarter with every step.”

Viessmann: Germany’s manufacturer of heating, industrial and refrigeration systems presented three technologies: An ice-storage system, a power-to-gas system and fuel cells. The ice storage system takes sun, air and ground heat generated in the summer and saves it for heating in the winter. It also does the reverse, saving winter energy for summer cooling. Essentially, the natural processes that freeze and melt water are converted into energy for heating and cooling homes or buildings. In the power-to-gas scenario, surplus electricity from renewable sources is used to generate hydrogen and then methane. The resulting gas can be used without further processing, and also can be saved in large amounts and for a long period of time. The fuel-cell technology is an efficient system of heat and electricity-generation by natural gas that allows homeowners to get away from their central power network almost entirely, and, in the process, cut their emissions in half.

Angled blades: Kazakhstan’s Usta Zheldi made a slight adjustment to the shape of traditional wind turbines by angling the blades and, in the process, increasing the rotational force and the amount of energy they generate. Because they are also shorter, they reduce the weight of the turbine tower and its blades, thus reducing the cost per kilowatt-hour of energy the turbine can provide.

Platio: It’s often said that on hot summer days, you could fry an egg on the sidewalk. This Hungarian company took that idea and ran with it, knowing full well that on hot summer days, pavement collects and stores energy. Platio envisions equipping these “found” urban energy storers with solar paving, using elements made from recycled plastics. The energy coming from them can be used to supply local microgrids, or it can simply be fed back into the traditional grid.

ABB’s Solar Impulse: Solar Impulse was the first plane to fly around the world, powered solely by solar energy. ABB and Solar Impulse, which are both Swiss energy-efficient technology pioneers, believe that cutting-edge technologies can address the world’s clean-energy challenges and made this plane to show what’s possible. The journey wasn’t terribly time efficient, however — it took 21 days and 17 stops — but it did make the point that it could be done, and it also broke a record for the longest solar flight — between Japan and Hawaii — in a trip that took four days and 21 hours at an average speed of 17 kilometres per hour. It wrapped up its journey in July 2016. The plane, which has a wing span more suited to an Airbus, features 17,500 solar panels that accumulate solar energy as it’s flying.

Polarsol: Polarsol aims to make coal cleaner with its heat-management concept that uses a unique heat exchanger to produce warm and cold air with record-high efficiency. It is effective in the most unforgiving climates, including its home country of Finland, and can be used in homes and industrial settings alike.

SILO: Humans have made gains in renewable energy, but the world still relies on coal for more than 40 per cent of its electricity production, which has multiple resulting emissions. The Warsaw University of Technology has come up with SILO (Stochastical Immunological Layer Optimizer) as a way to optimize the combustion of coal so the entire product is used — which is not usually the case — and control its CO2 emissions. It’s now being used in China, the U.S. and Poland.

Rainmaker: The planet has plenty of water, but very little of it is drinkable. The Netherlands’ Rainmaker systems change that by operating on the natural principles of evaporation and condensation. The systems are easy to transport, simple to set up and best of all, they operate off the grid, extracting up to 20,000 litres of potable water from the air each day. Where water is salty, brackish or contaminated, they can purify up to 150,000 litres a day.

Jennifer Campbell is Diplomat’s editor. She visited Kazakhstan in September.

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