Energy Resources Around Us

Author: Penghuy Srean

When talking about how we get electrical energy, we usually refer to hydroelectric, wind turbines, solar panels, steam power plants run by coal, oil, and gas or nuclear power plants. But most people do not know-how those power plants generate electricity. This is what we should be curious about in order to understand how electrical energy is generated. 

In fact, electrical energy is just one form of energy. There are many other forms, such as mechanical energy, electrical energy, thermal energy, light energy, chemical energy and so on. According to physics, the total energy is always conserved. It is converted to one form or another. So to generate electrical energy you just need to find a way to convert from other forms of energy to electrical energy. For example, wind turbines convert wind energy, solar converts light energy, steam turbines convert chemical energy and last but not least, dynamo attached to your bike converts mechanical energy to electrical energy

Electricity Generation Through Heat and Human Activities. 
When you think about how to get electricity, you probably think that you need to build one large power plant. Power plants such as hydroelectric, steam power plants, wind turbines, wave power plants, nuclear and more are large power plants you can not start those easily. Let’s see the way of using our hand heat, our activity and the waste around ourselves converted into useful energy.

Your body heat can power a flashlight 
The hollow flashlight has been invented by Ann Makosinski. The idea of this invention came from a problem of her friend who failed a school exam because of no electricity to study at night. This problem made her shocked and tried to solve the problem. Finally, she invented that flashlight that can be powered by human hand heat with a technology of thermoelectric generator called Peltier. This flashlight is battery free and no charging needed, you just hold it by your hand, the heat transfer from your hand to the peltier creates light.

Odoo • Text and Image

eDrink a coffee mug that produces electricity
Besides the hollow flashlight. Ann Makosinski also creates eDrink, which is a coffee mug that can generate electricity from coffee’s heat. The idea of this creation is due to 2 problems she observed. One is her friend’s phone drop power so fast, another one is her friend always waiting for their hot coffee to cool down. So edrink solved these 2 problems by absorbing the heat and generating it into electricity so her friend can boost up their phone’s power.

Odoo • Text and Image

Generate electricity while walking 

Every action we do uses energy, so have you ever thought about what if we can harvest those into electrical energy so that you charge your phone or something?

Odoo • Text and Image

In fact, there is a technology called piezoelectric which you can squeeze to generate electricity. The inventors have found a clever way to use it. It has been experimented with shoes. The shoes attach the piezoelectric pad on the button of it so that you can push the pad generating electricity while you are walking. These kinds of shoes can be useful, especially for soldiers or for hikers who cannot access the electric grid. The idea of harvesting electricity from the shoes is great actually, even if it is not much though, but in some cases you can boost up your electronic device such as your smartphone or also you can attach a GPS to that shoe so that if you got lost in the forest, then anyone can find you. There are a few more ideas of this technology application such as attaching it to the walking way or under the bridge since the vibration will affect the piezoelectric module that will generate electricity.

Odoo • Text and Image

Turning waste into power
We humans generate a lot of waste compared to other living creatures. The waste can be from what you eat, what you use, what you made and last but not least, from your body.

Turning garbage into electricity

Have you ever thought about turning those waste into useful energy! This is a great question to ask. If you can answer the question, our world will become cleaner and more comfortable.

Odoo • Text and Image

Actually, we can generate useful energy from the waste we produced. For instance, Sweden has  power plants that burn trash instead of fossil fuel. 99% of Sweden’s trash is collected into power plant burning that 52% converted into electricity, and 47% get recycled, only 1% brought to landfill. Sweden not only collects trash locally, even imports from other countries which mostly from Norway and the UK. By burning trash, they help cut down greenhouse gases by million tonnes a year.

Odoo • Text and Image

From methane of manure to electricity
Manure is also a waste and when it breaks down, it will produce methane, a greenhouse gas, to the air. However, methane is chemically identical to the natural gas drilling from the ground. To make it clear, methane has been used to burn for cooking, heating buildings, producing electricity or even used as fuel for flying a rocket. Now, cow poop sounds useful then. So instead of just letting it emit to the atmosphere naturally, why not try to make it into a good use? To get the most methane out of these wastes, it would be better to have a mixture of the manure with food scraps.

Odoo • Text and Image

Turn urine into useful things

Another interesting approach is our urine can be turned into power as well. A Mexican Mechanical engineer Gabriel Luna-Sandoval has invented a machine that can transform urine into biogas by extracting the O2 and H2 out. This invention is great, you can heat your house in the cool weather, heat shower water or cook with the biogas produced. According to him, an adult produces 1.4 liters of urine per day, with this amount it can be used for 17 hours of hot shower or cooking beans for 14hours. The oxygen extracted from this small machine can be provided to astronauts in space. The hydrogen that is created can be used as fuel for an internal combustion engine which can be attached with a generator producing electricity.
Odoo • Text and Image

In addition, microbial fuel cell technology is another way of turning urine into electricity. The microbial cell is an energy converter which can convert one form of energy into something else. The cell contains live organisms (bugs or bacteria), these bugs' food is urine. Breaking the urine down would produce electrons and once they make electrons move we get electricity. Another interesting fact, scientists can produce pure water out of our urine as well since our urine contains lots of carbon, nitrogen and also lots of water.

After done reading, do you have in mind an idea of harvesting energy from the resources around yourself? There are many activities in gym clubs, how might we harvest energy from those, don't you think? Is there any other way that you thought of to produce electricity to supply your home, your local community or your country?