Coal, gas, sun, water, air – we know how to harness energy out of all these sources. We have built power plants to burn coal and other fossil fuels, and learned to capture the energy released from them. We have also identified the harmful potential of these fuels, realizing the ways in which they pollute our environment. So we turn our focus to exploring other, cleaner sources of energy such as wind or solar power.
But there is a lot more energy for us to make use of. In fact, we all produce energy every day when riding our bike or performing other physical activities. We just haven’t developed an effective way to capture it, store it and use it – yet.
In addition, a lot of energy created as a byproduct of powering up our machines and engines goes to waste without being utilized in any way.
Here are 10 strange sources of energy we have yet to tap into
Noise and sound are energy. The sound waves generated through music, speaking, as well as all types of noise such as from cars, can be used to create energy. Dr. Sang-Woo Kim has been developing a technology that can make energy out of sound at the Institute of Nanotechnology at Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul, South Korea. In his research, he is trying to base his work on the fact that sound waves can make almost any material on earth vibrate.
At the moment, the amount of energy that can be obtained with this technology is not enormous, but more research is going into exploring the possibilities of using the sound waves to charge small devices like mobile phones or tablets .
About one hundred billion times more power than we need is available right now – in space. This energy comes from solar wind, a stream of particles flowing towards us from the sun.
Physicists think they can capture this energy with a satellite that will orbit the sun. But at the moment the concept is not ready to be rolled out, as scientists are still trying to understand whether some of the power will be lost when it makes its way through our atmosphere. It is more likely that this technology can help power our future space missions .
The average human produces around 100 watts of energy per hour when resting . So imagine how high is the potential amount of energy that is generated in busy and crowded places.
Sweden has put this concept into practice by collecting the body heat energy generated by 250,000 daily commuters of Stockholm’s railway station to power an entire block located nearby .
The waste left from the production of chocolate, can mediate the creation of hydrogen through series of reactions when fed to bacteria Escherichia coli. Hydrogen is one of the cleanest known fuels, and its only byproduct is water .
Noticing that coffee has a relatively high oil content, researchers were able to create a form of biodiesel fuel from coffee grounds. In London, a company called Bio-bean is putting this technology in practice. It is the first company to industrialise coffee-waste recycling and produce biodiesel out of it.
Researchers believe that if all the waste coffee grounds generated by the world’s coffee drinkers were gathered and reprocessed, this would produce 2.9 million gallons of fuel each year .
Piezoelectricity is produced when stress or strain is applied on an object, which can then be converted to electricity. As such, this kind of energy source has a number of applications.
For example, some clubs in Japan are using this concept to generate energy from their dance floors . Another company in the UK is looking to design a mobile phone that will incorporate this technology, enabling the phone to be charged whenever the user texts .
Cows emit methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. But now scientists have identified a way to extract methane from cow excrement and convert it to a fuel. What’s more, the quality of this fuel is perfectly comparable to natural gas .
Algae has long been recognised as having a great potential to provide a reliable source of energy.
Unlike other biofuels, it does not compete with our food sources and can be grown in non-potable and saline water on otherwise nonproductive land. However, researchers still have not been able to determine how to grow algae on an industrial scale .
Municipalities around the globe are generating sludge. Rather than further treating the sludge, researchers from the University of Nevada in the United States have developed a technology that dries up the sludge, so that it can be burnt and transformed into electricity.
In California alone, the amount of sludge produced could give 10 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per day .
An electric eel is capable of producing up to 400 V of electricity. It uses this charge to defend itself, but also to compensate for its very poor eyesight.
Inventors have found the way to use the energy generated by eels to power up small installations. Specifically, in one aquarium in Japan, they have used the eel’s energy to light a Christmas tree .