How Better Electronics Will Drive the Sustainability Revolution


While it may not always seem like it, our world is slowly becoming more eco-conscious. People, and particularly those in younger generations, are recognizing the threats of climate change and looking for ways to contribute to a healing effort. There’s still a great deal of work to be done though, and right now, in the spring of 2020, we may be at something of a crossroads.

This is because world activities and economies have more or less paused in the midst of the global pandemic. And while most of the focus on moving forward has to do with safety and economic concerns, the environment is also a factor. Our article ‘International Investors Call for Governments to Work Towards a Sustainable Recovery From COVID’ explored this idea, revealing that climate-conscious groups are attempting to influence economic recovery. The idea is that while safety should be the top priority as world economies ease back into action, the return to work should also help to push eco-friendly initiatives forward. Essentially, while it may sound strange to phrase it this way, there may currently be an opportunity for the world to “un-pause” with a greener point of view.

As we consider what that might mean, and what a wide-ranging sustainable revolution might look like, we ted to think mostly about massive innovations and brand new concepts. We think about alternative energies, electric cars, how to protect natural ecosystems and plant more trees, and so on. But in some ways, a revolution of this sort will also depend on much smaller innovations. In more exact terms, we’re talking about the better, more versatile electronics that are going to help establish the foundation of a more sustainable world.

When we say “electronics,” we don’t mean devices either, but rather the circuit boards that power them. These are elements many people don’t consider when assessing new, climate-friendly devices, and yet it is innovations in printed circuit boards (or PCBs) that is making a lot of important inventions feasible.

For one thing, PCBs with metal cores are becoming more common. Altium explains the benefits of metal core PCBs, detailing that they are better thermal conductors, and can thus dissipate heat generated by devices. This makes it more feasible to pack more power into smaller devices without risk of overheating or malfunction. It also makes devices more suitable to harsher environments — whether it be a sensor measuring an irrigation system in the sun, or an underlying electronic component attached to a solar panel.

In addition to metal cores, PCBs are also now being designed with more layers and, in some cases, more flexible designs. These innovations serve multiple purposes. More layers packed into a dense space can enable more complex electronic functions; flexible designs can allow PCBs to be put into smaller and more custom-fitted devices. Both are helping to drive the design of any number of modern devices that can be of assistance in the effort to build a more sustainable world.

In large part, this is all relevant because of the role that the Internet of Things (or IoT) and artificial intelligence are going to play in environmental efforts moving forward. Forbes went over the IoT and AI as part of this conversation and pointed to broad concepts like waste reduction, agricultural sustainability, water preservation, renewable energy, and more as beneficiaries of the technology. To dive into how each of these areas will be affected would take a whole series of articles. Overall though, we’re talking about the deployment of innumerable intelligent, connected sensors and devices that will help to automate these practices.

That’s not to say that better electronics and new sensors and devices will solve all of our problems. Policy and innovation will still drive the actual rollout of these networks of devices, and even then there will be lingering issues. Wired suggested that the IoT itself is doomed, pointing to factors like security and privacy as things that could cripple the very concept. And while that may be a little bit dramatic, there’s still the work of establishing and preserving these sustainability networks. None of it will happen overnight, and none of it will be easy.

With that said though, we should feel some optimism about what better electronics, new devices, and the IoT can accomplish across all facets of the sustainability conversation. Particularly now, as we face such an important time for environmental efforts, these are among the most exciting factors in the battle to preserve our climate.

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