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The large scale use of non-renewable sources of energy causes an enormous amount of destruction and depletion of the Earth’s natural resources. New solutions are clearly needed. For the most part, the general public is now familiar with looking to wind and solar power as large scale alternative energy options. However, energy production on a smaller scale is often not addressed, on the assumption that only large-scale applications are of any relevance. However, many of our machines require so much power because they have to do far more work than the real task at hand (for example, a car or elevator has to move a ton or more of material, for the purpose of just moving one person). Hence, there is a lot of scope to use small scale sources of power if we appropriately redesign our machines and tools. Among these small-scale source of power is the energy of our own bodies, which is accessible to almost everyone and could be easily incorporated into people’s daily routines. The focus of this page is primarily on systems that can convert the energy of our movement into electrical energy, to power electric or electronic devices.
Context within NORA
Relationships to Needs
Devices that convert human energy into electric power can be used to run a variety of devices in the house, which can contribute to the needs of being at home, housing/shelter, and security. When they are used to power lights that help students to study at night, they contribute to opportunities to learn. Having access to electricity, and especially to modern means of communication, may also facilitate participation in collective economic and political decision-making.
Interestingly enough, another need that all living organisms have is the need for *mobility*. Mobility and human energy go hand in hand for multiple reasons, but especially for the simple fact that when humans are mobile, they produce energy that is able to be harnessed to power electronic devices. In addition, humans are able to be mobile on their own without the reliance on machinery that has negative impacts on the environment by walking, running, cycling, skateboarding, as well as other methods. By using the power of your mobility in a positive way, you can create and harness energy that is renewable through the movement of your own body rather than choosing options that are produced from non-renewable resources.
By producing and harvesting human energy, you are also exercising your right to health. Everyone has the right to a healthy life. Unfortunately, however, not everyone in the world is currently experiencing the healthiest life possible due to external sources outside of their control. But, there are people who are perfectly capable of improving both their mental and physical health by making simple alterations to their sedentary American lifestyles. In addition to producing harness able energy through body movement, one can also improve their health by increasing the amount they move as well as the amount of time spent outside throughout the day. This can be done by walking to destinations that would normally be driven to, or at least walk to a public transit stop, and use the stairs instead of the elevator in buildings.
Relationships to Organizational Forms
Human energy is most relevant to the self provisioning cluster since the main concept that has ben explored thus far is how humans are capable of providing themselves with enough energy to occasionally replace some battery and electric operated devices. Other forms of alternative energy would also fall into the self provisioning cluster, but human energy seems to be the form of energy production that is most literally self provisioning.
Relationships to Resources
In terms of resources, there are not many that are needed to collect the energy that is output by human movement. However, the essential resource of energy is produced from movement. As previously mentioned, this form of energy production is often referred to as human power. In addition to energy, human power also fits well into the resource category of physical, human-made aspects , particularly the sub-grouping of household appliances which will be explained further under the implementation section.
Relationships to Abundance
As suggested by the section on the NORA main page, abundance is very much a mindset in the same way as implementing human energy harvesting and converting devices is. Abundance can be created through the use of human energy as a power source, especially when it is used on a group level rather than on an individual by individual basis. The more we take advantage of the energy we are able to produce through kinetic energy, the less we will need to rely on batteries and on occasion, electricity.
Using Human Energy for Electricity
Even though it would definitely take some getting used to, there are simple changes that could be made to the daily routine of the average American that would encourage less reliance on non-renewable energy sources and simultaneously promote the use of renewable ones. Human energy can be harvested while doing even the most basic of tasks.
There is very promising evidence that suggests human energy would be beneficial in the following areas:
There are several exercise facilities in the U.S. as well as abroad that power a small percent of their buildings with the energy that is harvested from the customers using the fitness equipment. This is something that should be done in the majority of exercise facilities because it is a small change, of course, but each step lessens our dependence on fossil fuels as an energy source. However, the optimal thing in this situation would be that people start waking, running, and cycling outdoors and there would be no need for electricity in the gyms because they wouldn't exist. Since that is not very realistic of everyone to do, it is better that we at least make some changes toward the right direction.
There is already the technology in place for human powered coffee pots and other household items. Almost anything smaller than a lap top can be powered in this way. However, larger items and items of frequent and prolonged use, such as a laptop, are not good candidates because they would require battery replenishments too frequently to keep up with. So, it is proposed that cell phones, tea kettles, coffeepots, flash lights, and many other battery operated devices can easily be powered from human energy. There are specific devices that youn would need to purchase, though. It is unlikely that you would be able to convert a device you already have into one that would be able to process the kinetic energy.
Just because it is a children's toy and game doesn't mean that it can't be put to practical use. For example, there is a company called Empower Playgrounds that installs merry-go-rounds in rural areas in Africa. These merry-go-rounds serve as a recreational toy for the school children as well as a way to power their LED lanterns that they use to read and study by at home at night. The company has been expanding to reach more areas and there are also other similar initiatives coming into place all over the world.
There have been advances in the medical field that have allowed us to gain the knowledge that the beating of the human heart has the ability to power a pace maker. This is great news for the medical field because it means that people will not have to have invasive procedures to get the batteries on their pace makers replaced. The person's heart would be able to generate enough energy to work as a generator in the event that their heart eventually stops. This is promising for the future of other permanent, battery powered medical devices.
Human energy also has it's place and use in the militarily. There are devices that work as knee braces or that van be inserted into the shoe which can be used to harvest the energy that is used while a person is in motion. The devices are most efficient when placed on frequently moved joints, such as the knee or ankle. These devices would allow for soldiers to be able to create the power for flash lights, radios, phones, and walkie-talkies. This would also lessen the amount of equipment that they would have to carry in their backpacks because they would no longer need to carry replacement batteries. There has also been research done in looking into the possibilities of making clothing that absorbs the body heat of its' wearer and converts that into usable energy. There is still more research to be done. However, human energy is already a lot that can be done with the energy we make every day while doing run of the mill tasks. As technology advances, the devices will advance as well.
A Human Power Conversion System Based on Children's Play written by Rupesh Varade
Bullock, Anne-Marie. "Can Electricity from the Human Body Replace Batteries?" BBC News. BBC, 09 May 2012. Web. 12 Oct. 2013.
Highfield, Roger. "Scientists Have Found A Way To Generate Electricity From The Human Body." Business Insider. The Telegraph, 27 Nov. 2012. Web. 08 Oct. 2013.
Movers and Shakers: Kinetic Energy Harvesting for the Internet of Things written by Gorlatova, Sarik, Cong, Kymissis, and Zussman (Cornell University Library)
Biochemical Energy Harvesting: Generating Electricity During Walking with Minimal User Effort written by J.M. Donelan