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|Scooped by Hanna Remaley|
At Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, researchers are working on a novel, albeit somewhat distasteful, alternative to fossil fuels. They've developed a state-of-the-art toilet for use in developing countries that employs microwaves to chemically alter human waste into syngas, a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen. This syngas can then be used in stacks of fuel cells to generate electricity. Hypothetically, one toilet could generate enough juice to power several village households, freeing them from dependence on coal or oil.
At first glance, Delft's scheme to turn poop into power may seem a bit daft. But drastic times call for drastic measures, and many people categorize the state of our environment as drastic. We live on a planet of finite resources -- some of which are crucial to our survival, and others that harm the environment every time we use them.
Rather than wait for the oil wells to run dry and coastal cities to disappear beneath rising sea levels, many people are looking ahead to cleaner alternative sources of energy. Some of these energy sources, like solar power, hybrid-electric vehicles and small, hand-powered gadgets have already caught on. Others, however, like feces-fueled water heaters, may take a little getting used to.
Here, for your reading enjoyment, are 10 of the wackier ideas for alternative energy. Some of them are already available; others need a few more trial runs before they hit the market. Either way, if you're reading this during a self-imposed Earth Hour, hand-crank your flashlight and prepare to be surprised -- or even amused.
When you're at the gym, does your mind ever drift off to ponder the perils of the planet? Do you feel a bit of remorse as your legs pound away on an electric machine that goes nowhere, while the ice-cold air conditioner blows down on your neck? OK -- so most likely, you're probably thinking more about the amount of calories you're burning. But if you're one of the more eco-conscious athletes out there, you may soon be able to let those concerns melt away with the pounds.
Several innovative gyms are popping up that convert human energy into useable electricity. One of them, in Hong Kong, has exercise machines that look perfectly ordinary from the outside, but have generators inside that create energy from movement. So while you're busy sweating it out, your efforts are creating electricity to power the exercise console and supplement the electrical juice it takes to keep the overhead lights on. The owner of the gym maintains that the average person can generate about 50 watts of electricity per hour on the machines. So, unless you like running in the dark, you better get moving.
Pedal generators like the Pedal-A-Watt bike stand operate on a similar concept but are more powerful. A person in top condition can generate 500 watts of power, while someone in couch-potato condition could generate around 150 watts. Although that may not seem like much, that's enough to power two laptops, two fluorescent light bulbs and a cell phone -- as long as you maintain that pedaling.
The Pedal-A-Watt bike stand, which works by powering a generator with the movement of the bike's rear wheel, comes with an optional PowerPak that stores the energy you create for later use. The PowerPak has an outlet where you can plug in and power any appliance that runs on less than 400 watts of electricity. For a frame of reference, a large television uses around 200 watts, a stereo 20 watts, a desktop computer 75 watts and a refrigerator 700 watts.