Last week we published an article about the greatest and craziest renewable ideas we have received from our followers. The article made many of you question if the ideas were really possible to execute or efficient enough to make a change in the world. It goes without saying that we appreciate every message we receive and every published idea will encourage and inspire others to innovate and dream for a better future.
When it comes to innovations that can actually be produced with today’s technology or are speculated to be possible in the future, our designers have some thoughts to share.
1. Turning body heat into electricity
In the Top5 article we mentioned two reader ideas where an everyday object was harnessed to absorb body heat to produce electricity – an energy absorbing chair and a ring. The concept has been tested in Finland with a coffee cup that takes the heat of the coffee and turns it into electricity to load your mobile phone. With that power they managed to keep a phone running for only four seconds.
The reaction behind this whole concept is not actually an object absorbing energy but using the heat difference between two objects. The reaction used to generate energy with heat actually comes from the movement of heat. So putting on an ice cold ring in your finger generates movement of heat that creates energy. The main problem with this is that the heat difference will eventually even out and you would need to repeat the action by for example cooling the ring again.
In the future our electronics will definitely be more power efficient so the energy needed will be much lower and we could actually gain enough power from the smallest things like sitting in hot chair for five minutes. We liked the idea of harnessing energy from an office chair while we all know that our daily working life acquires hours of sitting. But there’s also another way that sitting at work could be harnessed into energy production.
When you think about the office chair it has many moving parts like a shock absorber. At work you bounce around, go to meetings and lunch or fix your posture by lifting yourself up. This movement could also be used to generate electricity – at the moment it would not be a cost efficient way but we only have to see what the future of technology holds.
2. Self-sorting garbage cans
There’s a company in Finland that specializes in supplying robotic waste separation systems. Used for example in construction sites the robots receive all the different waste through a conveyer belt and through artificial intelligence are able to sort every object into where they belong.
So the technology exists but to use it in a neighborhood trash can level it would be quite costly. If we found a more cost efficient way, maybe the technology could be used in public waste management installed inside every garbage truck.
We are positive that the garbage management technology will be taking big leaps in the future so that all the waste can be easily sorted in it’s final destination. It may be lasers that read the material, built-in micro chips, or an UV-light tag printed on every object. But as said before, no great idea submitted for a cleaner future goes to waste.
3. Organic air conditioning with plant walls
Plant walls and vertical gardens do already exist. Plants are used to help mitigate smog, produce oxygen, reduce noise and moderate room temperature. It’s not as simple as you think though – You need the right kind of plants with the right kind of hydration, optimal weather conditions and plenty of care to keep the plants alive.
What’s interesting about the layer of plants on a building is that it helps the building breathe a bit like our skin. When the human heat transformation happens through sweating, the green roof plants keep themselves naturally cooled by evaporating water in photosynthesis. So every green wall or roof top is like an organic air conditioning. A great modern day example of this is bosco Verticale residential towers in Porta Nuova, Milan.
4. Collecting kinetic energy from highways
Harnessing roads to energy production in any way is a great idea because of the volume of highways we have around the world. Energy generating rollers would definitely generate energy but they also have a couple of downsides. For a start a rolling barrel of any size would be a safety issue for drivers. A roller would also have more than one moving part and a lot of constant friction that means breaking parts and heavy maintenance.
Considering the future our designers have two concepts that could work without too many moving parts. The first is an innovation called Solar Roadways – solar panels made from special glass. The panels can melt snow and their surface is tractioned equivalent to asphalt.
The other possible solution is a bit more futuristic sounding. It’s called piezoelectricity – electricity resulting from pressure. Materials capable of producing piezoelectric effects generate voltage when deformed, for example driven over. Adding this material into concrete or asphalt would then generate electricity in every road we drive or even walk on.
The discussion continues at www.neste.com/preorderthefuture .
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