By Keith Patterson
Renewable energy has seen significant growth over the past decade. While the most obvious projects use wind and solar to create usable power, some smaller-scale ideas have that same power coming from unexpected places. Here's a look at what some green entrepreneurs were able to accomplish in the clean gadget industry.
1. Kinetic dance floor
Now dancing is not just good for your heart, it's good for your energy bill too! A company called the Sustainable Dance Club recently rolled out a series of floor tiles capable of converting kinetic energy into electricity. When people dance on the floor, the tiles compress slightly, powering small generators in each tile. The electricity can then be harnessed in a nearby electrical system or can power the display on the dance floor.
Temple Night Club in San Francisco permanently installed the tiles and can literally harness the energy from its customers on a nightly basis. Depending on how intense the dancer dances, a person can create 5 to 20 watts of energy every night. Multiply that by the hundreds of dancers at the hottest night clubs across the world and you get a substantial amount of electricity.
2. Pee-powered generator
Waste may not need to be wasted anymore. Four teenage girls from Africa created a urine-powered generator that could convert one liter of urine into six hours of power. Basically, the system separates hydrogen from urine and converts it into electricity.
So far the teens still have some work to do. While generator creates electricity, it requires external power for the electrolytic cell needed to separate the hydrogen. Nevertheless the girls, all under the age of 15, have made significant progress in creating something useful out of something gross. With a little time and engineering, this alternative energy device could help provide power in areas that have none.
3. Fire-powered cell phone charger
Since cavemen days, fire has been a coveted element. From providing heat to cooking food, flames have great power. Point Source Power has come up with a new way to use the heat — to power you cell phone. The company's new creation, the VOTO charger, converts the high temperatures of fire into usable electricity.
The VOTO charger uses a fuel cell, which works by placing it just below the wood or charcoal on a fire. Just two cooking sessions on an open fire can generate enough power to fully charge your cell phone. In addition, the charger comes with an LED light that provides up to 30 hours of light when fully charged. Going camping? This might be a great tool to have.
4. Electricity generating soccer ball
Running up and down a soccer field takes a lot of energy. Thanks to startup Uncharted Play, we now have a way to harness it. The Soccket is the world's first soccer ball to generate electricity. When the ball is kicked around, a pendulum-like mechanism inside the ball generates energy. The kinetic energy can then be converted into power and used through a USB port. According to Uncharted Play, after just 30 minutes of play, the Soccket can power an LED lamp for three hours.
The United Nations estimates that 1.3 billion people still live without basic electricity. This simple soccer ball could help solve the problem and bring much needed power to people in need. After four years of testing in developing countries, the Soccket will soon be available for purchase all over the world. If soccer's not your sport, the company has also started developing more play-powered products from jump ropes to skateboards.
Keith Patterson is a freelance writer and designer for all things green and sustainable. His work promotes the technological advancements for the benefit of our environment and the constant balance between man, gadget, and world.