The steadily increasing global energy consumption increases the number of environmental issues and corresponding risks associated with it. This eventually put pressure to develop green and renewable energy products and at the same time more emphasis on reducing conventional energy consumption.
In fact, we ignore one important energy source which could transform the way we act, adopt and consume the energy in future i.e. Human energy. The human body contains enormous quantities of energy; the average adult has as much energy stored in fat as a one-ton battery. That energy fuels our everyday activities but whether these human actions/motions turn to generate electricity?
Manoj Bhargava on the electricity-generating bicycle. (Source: Billions in Change) Most of the innovators around the world are harping on our potential energy to run the electronics products/gadgets. There are plenty of examples of new innovative products and systems which indicate and confirm the replacement of conventional energy with human-powered equipment.
As we know that human movement produces kinetic energy which can be converted into power. Human energy is 100% green and non-polluting except some amount of CO₂ gets emitted to the atmosphere which is very marginal compared to fossil-fueled electricity.
Image source: Psipunk
More importantly, human-powered products help their users to think in a different way; by encouraging their effort in producing their own energy, and the waste of energy is made apparent for once. Sustainable development might mandate a shift from global to local production consumption which is really a positive thing.
A good example of a human-powered Play pump system is being used in African countries largely in the rural areas where there is insufficient electricity to run the electric equipment. Access to clean drinking water is vital for human survival and is critical to improving the lives of those living in poverty in developing countries. The play pump system allows for easy access to clean drinking water and simultaneously provides children an outlet to play.
Image source: Vigyanashram
Let’s think about all the people in the fitness clubs around the world and the energy that’s could be generated while exercising and how this human power could be used instead of going to waste!
People go to fitness clubs to improve their health, but at the same time, with no additional effort, they could also be producing clean, renewable energy, thereby improving the health of the environment too. It’s a fantastic thought and in fact, it’s already being implemented in most of the developed countries.
If we refer to Mr. David Butcher’s website; he has been working on a method to use human-generated power to run appliances in the house. He plans to build a device that just about anyone could use to power a variety of small household equipment as well as to charge batteries for later use. We should really appreciate such a wonderful environment-conscious person who thinks & dedicates his life to the betterment of society as a whole.
Image source: The Age
“Pedal power utilizes the most powerful muscles in the body; the quads, hamstrings, and calves; converting ninety-five percent of exertion into energy.” Bart Orlando, Humboldt University. As per the scientific study, an adult person burns 125 calories by walking 3 mph on a treadmill per half hour. I.e. 290.656 watts per hour power generated! The potential of pedal-powered electricity is to use various household appliances and to charge emergency batteries in case of power failure.
By doing simple things in our daily life we can save the planet. Now, we will discuss the different potential use of human power. The creation of green gyms where people pay their membership fees as usual but swipe their membership cards before and after they use the machine for their daily workout.
This is to calculate the power produced during exercise in a year and redeem the equivalent annual membership fees. Sri International, a research firm in Menlo Park, CA, is working with Defense Dept to create a shoe that will convert the mechanical energy of walking into electric power to electrify the devices such as batteries or cell phones.
Image source: 99percentspace
A human car or human propelled car is another novel example of the potential use of human power. A four-passenger human car is made of steel tube frame chassis which propels with the coordinated efforts of all passengers. The human car is not about changing the world, but it is an alternative way of making the world greener.
A foot-powered generator (EGAS); is the world’s 1st power generator that is able to be used in an unventilated home because it doesn’t use combustible fuel to produce power. The five minutes of step-down effort can produce 30 minutes of usable power. An innovative Yo-Yo-powered MP3 player requires only 10-12 tosses per hour to play the MP3 player. This is very useful where no electricity is available (while walking, traveling).
Human-powered generators could be located within flooring and stairs to extract electric power from the movement of humans in crowded places like pubs, heavy traffic areas, train stations, etc. Through the use of a matrix of hydraulic compression cushions, where footsteps push fluid through a micro-turbine which generates power and is stored in a super-capacitor.
Advances in energy scavenging technologies such as Nanogenerator with zinc oxide fibers, MEMS-based micro-generators and piezoelectric materials designed for energy harvesting, Bio-thermal power source, etc.
The image shows how to control traffic with the help of human power. There is a space comparison for three different modes of transport; car, bus, and bicycle. From the environmental point of view, a bicycle (human-powered vehicle) gives a better edge than the other two options. Now researchers are finding new ways to increase harvest efficiencies and lower costs.
Developers are also making electronics that use much less power so that one day your phone may run on the rustling in your pocket and a few finger taps when you make a call. Researchers in the UK also recently developed a piezoelectric generator, a knee brace that scrounges electrons from walking.
The bottom-line is the acceptability, scale, and continuous availability of human power in society. Still, we have a long way to go for replacing conventional fossil-fueled power with human power.
The further focus should be on research and development to get the innovative products which require less energy and could be maximum run with human power. One thing we should accept is that looking at the huge population; human energy will be a great alternative source of energy to some extent in the future.