Written by Alex Solorio, ESLLC 2015-2016
In a world where fossil fuels are becoming less and less abundant by the day, research into renewable energies is a field that is sure to expand over the next few decades. Although the most common and widespread renewables (namely solar, wind, and hydropower) are likely the most probable to replace nonrenewables in the long run, there is a huge amount of research devoted to finding other ecofriendly, energy-harnessing methods. When doing research myself, I came across energy sources that I would never have thought of, and I’ll share a few of them with you.
There is a dance club in Rotterdam, Netherlands that utilizes vibrations of dancers to power its light show. Whether someone is just walking across the room or dancing their pants off, their steps are captured by materials in the floor that produce electricity when compressed. This energy directly powers lights and lasers that fill the room with color. In effect, the harder people dance, the cooler the dance floor will become, inclining more people to dance, and the cycle repeats until the dance floor explodes or someone has a seizure.
In a few metropolitan hubs around the world, body heat is being utilized to warm buildings. The process is relatively straightforward. Subways in places like Stockholm and Paris are becoming increasingly crowded due to growing populations and tourism, and all of these extra bodies in the subway tunnels are producing large amounts of heat. This heat is being captured through water pipes, where the water is heated and then run through ventilations systems in buildings, effectively warming the temperature in those buildings. The buildings being warmed vary from apartments located above the subway to actual subway stations.
Fun fact: after oil, coffee is the most traded commodity on the planet. However, a lot of waste comes with all this production and distribution of coffee, namely coffee grounds. For example, Starbucks currently produces over 200 million pounds of coffee grounds every year (see second article), most of which just goes to waste. Recently, studies at the University of Nevada have shown that coffee grounds actually contain a large percentage of oil that can be used as biodiesel. Grounds leftover after coffee is made can be compressed and burned as a fuel source, and while this doesn’t affect the average at-home coffee drinker, large corporations like Starbucks could start providing millions of gallons of biodiesel to the fuel market each year.
For more information, read the following articles.