Our planet only has so many stores of the natural resources we use every day to power our cars and heat our houses. As the global population has spiralled, the search for sources of energy that are renewable, and subsequently sustainable, has become more and more desperate. Over the course of their research, scientists have discovered some truly bizarre sources of renewable energy – including things as seemingly disparate as sweat, dance floors and chocolate.
Pretty much all of us take a great deal of effort ensuring we sweat as little as possible. Taking showers and baths, applying deodorant and wearing moisture wicking clothing are just three of many anti-sweat measures we take. But what if I told you that researchers from the University of California have been able to harness sweat as a renewable energy source? Using temporary tattoos containing small sensors (or biobatteries) that strip electrons from the lactate present in sweat, the researchers were able to generate an electric current.
Before you crank up your central heating pump to get a sweat on so you can watch the latest episode of Coronation Street on the TV, this research is at an admittedly primitive stage. At the moment, sweat can only generate around 4 watts of electric current – enough to power a light bulb for the best part of 3 minutes. Whilst there is obviously some distance to go before it becomes a viable alternative, it is thought that it could have use in biomedical and military research that involves exercise regimes.
The kinetic energy produced by the movement of the human body is a significant source of energy. One perceptive and forward-thinking business in Rotterdam installed the first energy generating dance floor in the world. Combining the obvious propensity people have for dancing on a dance floor, Energy Floors were able to power the accompanying LED lights by converting the kinetic energy of the dancers into electricity.
Energy Floors favour an electromechanical system that transfers small vertical movements into a rotating movement that drives a generator. Do you think these dance floors have any chance of catching on in clubs across the world?
Using chocolate for anything other than eating seems like a crime. Don’t worry though; researchers from the University of Birmingham have uncovered a way to produce energy from the waste products of chocolate. Hydrogen was produced by feeding nougat and caramel waste to E. coli bacteria. By combining the hydrogen with oxygen in a fuel cell, electricity was generated.
Unlike sweat, chocolate seems to have more of a future as a renewable energy source. Researchers at the University of Warwick were also able to power a Formula 3 car capable of taking corners at 125mph using chocolate as a biofuel. Maybe you should hang on to all those left over Easter eggs?
As you have seen, there are an abundance of unorthodox sources of renewable energy that most of us would never have thought worth even looking into in the first place. Fortunately, researchers had the vision and foresight to do so, and we now have an array of renewable energy sources, one of which may become one of the most important resources on the planet in the future.
Which source of renewable energy surprised you the most?