Hydrogen run cars may be cooler than electric ones, background noise can charge your phones and bio-diesel is the new diesel. As the planet gets warmer and warmer, just depending on solar and wind energy won’t suffice. We need to come up with newer and cheaper alternatives of renewable energy.
Here are a few bizarre, yet efficient, alternatives to the conventional solar or wind energy:
There is a treasure of alternative sources of energy right inside your kitchen. Daily used ingredients like sugar, coffee, chocolate etc are being used increasingly to produce hydrogen which is an efficient and clean fuel and can be used to generate electricity. Hydrogen is also an ideal fuel for ‘fuel cells,’
Advantage of these cells is that they can derive energy from otherwise useless sources such as wastewater.
Engineers have come up with sugar batteries or cells which work a lot like plants and convert glucose into energy. Sugar batteries can store much more energy than the traditional (lithium-ion) batteries. For instance, if current batteries can charge your phone for one day, sugar batteries can charge it for 10 days.
A British company, Bio-Bean, is converting used coffee grounds into a biofuel supply for any wood-burning stove. And it comes at half the cost of using wood or charcoal. As per scientists at the University of Cincinnati, used coffee grounds collected from various Starbucks can also be used to produce biodiesel which is a renewable fuel used instead of diesel made from petrol.
Not just us humans, animals too are capable of producing energy. Animals like a cow. Wait? Are cows not responsible for highest emission of methane? Yes, but converting cow manure into a renewable source of energy, prevents the methane from reaching into the atmosphere. This manure can be converted into biogas which can be used to generate electricity. For instance, Fair Oaks in Indiana harnesses the power of cow dung, which is used to run its barn, office and cheese factory.
Another example would be an aquatic creature, jellyfish. A team at The Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden, are extracting green fluorescent protein (GFP) – the stuff that makes them glow- to make biofuel cells. So this is how it works. When a ‘drop of GFP’ is placed on aluminum electrodes and then exposed to ultraviolet light, which emits electrons and generates a current.
Chemists in Louisiana, are using alligator’s fat, which was initially dumped in landfills, as a source of biodiesel. Traditionally biodiesel was extracted from food crops. But however due to issues like rise in food price, scientists are looking at more cheaper and efficient options.
It’s true, some bacteria can make you sick, but some can save the planet. Micro-organisms like bacteria or algae are capable of producing energy and soon we might have to depend on these small creatures which serve as a better alternative source of energy. Bacteria like E. Coli stores fatty acids which can help with the production of substantial amounts of energy like hydrogen and biodiesel fuel. Thomas Wood, a professor in the Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering, using genetic engineering ‘tweaked’ a strain of bacteria, a process through which they give off 140 times hydrogen than the natural process.
Further, researchers at the University of Nevada, are transforming sludge into electricity. The sludge is often dried, converted into a powder and then through the process of gasifying it is converted into biofuel. This biofuel can be burned to generate electricity. This way the sludge can generate up to 25,000 kilowatt-hours per day.
For those who love talking loudly, there’s some good news for you. Researchers and engineers have come up with technology which converts sound, background noise or music into electricity. Noise pollution which has been plaguing the planet can now be used for a better cause. Examples of using this technology would be your phone being charged while you are having a long conversation or sound insulating walls near highway could generate electricity from the sound of passing vehicles.