Category: Energy

Kinetic pavement generates extra energy at Olympics

A temporary footbridge by London’s Olympic Park is being fitted with 12 energy-harvesting tiles designed to generate additional electricity during the Games.

Made from recycled lorry tyres and recycled aluminium, the tiles flex 5mm when stepped on, which creates the electricity. The company behind the tiles – Pavegen Systems – is elusive about the precise technology it employs, but according to an interview last year with The Engineer, the Pavegen team has invented a hybrid solution which takes advantage of the ability of certain materials to transform mechanical strain into an electric charge.

Forecast to generate a total of 21 kilowatt hours of electricity over the course of the Olympic Games, the tiles are unlikely to make a significant dent in the event’s overall energy use. However, as the company’s video highlights below, the installation could signal the mainstream uptake of a new renewable energy source.


Brazilian prisoners produce energy to reduce sentences

Convicted criminals are not generally known for ‘giving something back to the community’, but an innovative new programme at a Brazilian prison is set to change that, for the benefit of prisoners and the environment.

On the suggestion of a local judge, Brazil’s Santa Rita do Sapucaí prison has installed electricity-generating stationary bikes, allowing them to keep active while producing energy to power city streetlights, thereby enriching the community for everyone.

Their incentive? For every 16 hours spent pedalling, prisoners can shave a day off their sentences.

The initiative isn’t mandatory, but has proven so popular that the prison is adding eight new bikes. The total 10 bikes will produce enough energy to illuminate an entire avenue in the city centre.

Spray-on batteries could turn any surface into energy

Battery technology is seeing some exciting developments at the moment; liquid solar cells and current-generating paint are both examples of inventions set to revolutionise the clunky AA mainstay. And now scientists have added something new to the mix: spray-on batteries.

Developed by researchers at Rice University, this new technology allows any surface to become a battery, which could have pretty big implications for traditional energy storage and solar power generation. More on the science of the creation here.

Lead author of the team’s report Neelam Singh said: “Spray painting is already an industrial process, so it will be very easy to incorporate this into industry. We really do consider this a paradigm changer.”

However, there are some drawbacks, namely the spray-paint’s sensitivity to moisture and oxygen given its toxic, flammable and corrosive properties. Eliminating these issues through further research could see the paint being used at a large scale in industrial environments.

Check it out:


Carbon cakes: Skyonic turns CO2 into baking soda

CO2 is a problem, so wouldn’t it be great to turn it all into something else? Something useful? How about baking soda?

Texas-based start-up Skyonic plans to do just that by capturing and mineralising CO2 from industrial waste streams with a technology that can also be retro-fitted to existing emitters.

The company has already designed and built a  pilot project at Capitol Aggregrates Inc’s cement plant in San Antonio, and now thanks to massive investment from BP, ConocoPhillips and PVS Chemicals, plans to develop a $125 million commercial-scale project in the same location.

The facility will be capable of capturing 83,000 short tons of CO2 a year and turning it into 157,000 tonnes of bicarbonate.

It will cost around $45 a ton to capture and convert the carbon initially, but planners say that continued research and development could drive the cost down to below $20 per ton.

Construction of the new project will begin this summer.


Surprising household electricity habits revealed

Do you know how much your TV habit costs you? And we don’t mean your cable bill. As a nation, we watch an average of more than six hours of television a day, costing us £205 million in electricity more than the much-touted average of five hours a day.

This is just one finding from a new report by the Energy Saving Trust that delves deep into our household electricity habits. Other shockers include:

  • Single person households – over 29 percent of homes in the UK – use as much, if not more, energy than typical families use for cooking and laundry.
  • We run, on average, 5.5 washes a week, but we spend more on keeping crockery and cutlery clean than we do our clothes: using a dishwasher uses nearly twice as much energy as a washing machine.
  • Up to 16 percent of our electricity bill is spent on keeping appliances on standby.

Find more facts and figures, as well as guidance for lowering your energy bills, here.