TED Conversations

Jason Joy

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Energy harvesting everywhere

Energy is everywhere, and its wasted everywhere.
small fans could be build in the drain, water- tap (like the fans already used for measuring the water consumption), everywhere where a fluid or a gas flows.
small generators could be build in door knobs, knobs of basins, in exercise machines of gyms, everywhere where something is turned.
piezoelement could be build in floors, walkways, streets, everywhere where something is pushed.
Solarcells could be attached to walls, car tops, and all sort of devices.

What do you think, besides of the robustness of these small generators, is the biggest challenge for these devices to penetrate our daily life? Cost? Compatibility? Ease of use? Market acceptance?
I think one big challenge would be to make the devices fit existing infrastructure easily (eg flexible dimensions for different diameters of drains) and the energy / battery management. since different devices would produce different, and also fluctuating electricity, electronics to adjust the current and battery (cost and size as challenge) for the storage would be needed. a solution of that could be to not use a central energy management, but use the energy where its created, eg use the energy of flowing water to directly heat it again.

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    Jan 6 2012: The energy transfer technology used in electric toothbrushes could be used to harvest energy? So there's no need for cables etc.

    Children have buckets of energy, how about having energy creating devices in playgrounds to help power schools? Like the wind up torch but on a bigger scale. As long as the handle is attached to something fun they will spin it! Roundabouts could power a few lightbulbs, swings could keep a few computers going... schools could be self sufficient within a few years!
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    Jan 5 2012: Cost, the decline of the middle class, and over consumption. People could barely afford to switch to solar, if they still had jobs, and they didn't think they had to buy 700 dollar phones for children. Coal is so much cheaper than everything else though. Solar concentrated desalinization plants, should be the next big thing for island communities, California, and Mexico.

    Boil salt water with focused sunlight to provide cheap salt, water, and power... Wave of the future... Wave of the future... Wave of the future.
  • Jan 4 2012: Hi Jason,

    The issue is cost. Energy is astoundingly cheap in terms of dollars spent per unit of work.

    Best wishes,