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The Earth is in trouble, and it’s definitely our fault.  It seems clear at this point that traditional methods of generating electricity are unsustainable, and we must find new energy sources that do not produce as much carbon (or dust off old ones, like natural gas and nuclear power).

The recognized need for alternative power sources isn’t new. We’ve seen massive solar arrays unveiled in vast deserts, enormous on-and-offshore wind-farms, wave-beams converting the power of our oceans, and a host of biomass solutions arrive and disappear.  However, these forms of alternative energy are not the only game in town: there are a number of weirder ways of generating power that scientists are investigating.

1. Harvesting Body Heat

A number of major cities have begun harvesting the heat trapped in their vast metro systems. Millions of commuters (not to mention the trains themselves) sealed in the insulated environment of the metro can lead to an enormous temperature differential.

London Underground

The heat produced can be converted into power and heat for local homes, apartments, and businesses.  Five hundred homes in the London borough of Islington, offices parallel to the Stockholm metro, and a Parisian residential block are all harnessing human heat, with more buildings set to benefit in the near future.

Mall of America

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The 2.5 million square-foot shopping mecca, Mall of America, already utilises the heat generated by the sheer volume of people passing through it.  This heat combats the usually harsh Minnesotan winter — so much so that the building has no traditional central heating system.  Innovative thinking for the designers, way back in the early 90s.

2. Confiscated Alcohol

When life gives you lemons, burn the lemons and use them to power trains.

Sweden’s national customs service confiscated 185,000 gallons of illegally smuggled alcohol last year. Rather than pour it all down the drain 15 "Dry January" Tools To Keep You Alcohol Free 15 "Dry January" Tools To Keep You Alcohol Free There are tons of health crazes out there, but “Dry January” might be one of the healthiest ones yet. Keep your Dry January going strong, or quit drinking alcohol altogether with these tools. Read More , the Scandinavian’s plan to convert the seized alcohol into enough biogas to fuel over 1,000 trucks and buses, and even a train.

Biogas Train

Working with Svensk Biogas AB, the Swedish customs agency aims to continue converting this free resource into power for as long as smugglers keep attempting to cross the border. By 2013, bus fleets in more than a dozen Swedish cities were running on biogas Top 10 Emerging Technologies That Are Changing The World Top 10 Emerging Technologies That Are Changing The World From agriculture to medicine to energy, advancements are being made every day. Learn a little bit about these 10 emerging technologies that could directly affect your life within the next few years. Read More – though not all from the smuggled alcohol.

Alcohol

3. Used Adult Diapers

Japan’s population is getting old Exploring Japan's Abandoned Haikyo & Its Effect On Communities [Stuff to Watch] Exploring Japan's Abandoned Haikyo & Its Effect On Communities [Stuff to Watch] Urban exploration involves actively seeking out and documenting these places in photographs and videos for all to see. Enthusiasts risk personal safety and being caught by authorities to bring the rest of us some amazing... Read More  fast.  So old that in the near future, Japanese sales of adult diapers will outgrow sales of regular diapers. Seriously.

However, whilst the aging Japanese population may be of wider economic concern, Tottori-based Super Faiths Inc. innovative SFD Recycling System sees the burden as a power-solution.

SFD System

The SFD Recycling System takes used diapers, then sterilizes, pulverizes and dries them in their patented machine, returning biomass pellets reading for burning in the appropriate furnace, returning around 5,000 kcal per kg recycled. Not a bad return for an entirely useless landfill article. Capable of “servicing” around 700lb of used diapers per day, the system could well make its way into retirement homes and large hospitals Medical ID Theft: How Scammers Use Records To Steal Your Identity Medical ID Theft: How Scammers Use Records To Steal Your Identity Read More .

Adults in Diapers

In a nation still reeling 6 Charities That You Can Just Text To Donate 6 Charities That You Can Just Text To Donate Back in early 2010, when Haiti was devastated by a massive earthquake, text-to-donate campaigns helped raise the amazing amount of $10 million pretty quickly. Though that campaign is no longer active (you can still mail... Read More from the devastating 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami Free Storm Tracking Software To Get Warned Before Everyone Else Free Storm Tracking Software To Get Warned Before Everyone Else Read More , and the resulting Fukushima nuclear plant accident, alternative power solutions are gaining credibility as Japan seeks to become energy independent.

4. On the Dance Floor

More people power, please! The kinetic energy generated by our everyday tasks is under the spotlight as underground stations, nightclubs and gyms begin to utilise piezoelectric harvesting technologies. Piezoelectricity is generated in certain crystals in response to compression force.  If you have a surface that’s moving for any reason, you can attach piezoelectric crystals to it, and get small amounts of energy out.

Piezo Dancefloor

The accumulated electrical energy can be used to power services within the same building or area, or routed to a new location. Piezoelectricity isn’t an entirely new phenomenon, with DARPA evaluating You Won't Believe It: DARPA Future Research Into Advanced Computers You Won't Believe It: DARPA Future Research Into Advanced Computers DARPA is one of the most fascinating and secretive parts of the US government. The following are some of DARPA's most advanced projects that promise to transform the world of technology. Read More piezoelectric generators in the boots of soldiers. However, we utilise piezoelectricity more often than you might think: electric cigarette lighters The Electronic Cigarette Debate: Are They The Future Of Smoking? The Electronic Cigarette Debate: Are They The Future Of Smoking? If I told you that you could smoke two packs of cigarettes a day and no longer face health risks, would you believe me? Well, that might very well be the case. Read More feature a piezoelectric crystal with sufficient voltage to ignite the gas, resulting in a flame.

Electric Lighter

In the wild, we have seen Tokyo underground station power its ticket turnstiles, and the world’s first sustainable nightclub in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Piezoelectric energy-generation is also moving into the rail-sector.

Israel Railways, in collaboration with the Technion University and renewable energy company Innowatech installed 32 piezoelectric energy capture devices along a reasonably busy section of railway, harvesting some 120 kWh, enough to power signals, lights and track mechanisms.

5. Thorium Reactors

Miniature nuclear reactors powered by just one ton of radioactive thorium could feature in a new generation of local power generation schemes.  That said, thorium reactors would require high-energy neutrons to trigger their fissile activity, which has lead British scientists to begin work on miniature particle accelerators Panoramic Virtual Tour Of CERN Comes To Google Street View Panoramic Virtual Tour Of CERN Comes To Google Street View If you ever wanted to visit and see the Large Hadron Collider, now you can. Thanks to Google Street View you can take a panoramic virtual tour of the CERN site. Read More .

CERN Particle Accel

A prototype, the Electron Model of Many Applications, or EMMA, operates at around 20 million electron volts, or 20 MeV, which is a strong start.  That said, a fair degree of skepticism remains around the use of thorium and the practicalities of building and maintaining a larger number of local nuclear reactors.

6. Solar Power in Space

What could be more exciting or futuristic than a massive solar array, floating on a platform above the planet, beaming wireless electricity toward the Earth’s surface.  There are a lot of advantages to this option: no need to take up valuable real estate on Earth, and no energy fluctuations caused by weather.

That said, there is a long way to go with this form of alternative power. Wireless electricity transmission, long-term radiation shielding, meteorite protection, and the sheer cost of putting the equipment into orbit are just some of the stumbling blocks.

NASA Suntower

But John C. Mankins, President of the Space Power Association and Artemis Innovation, believes that just as nuclear power has received five decades of research, and billions of dollars of research funding to arrive at our current understanding, why shouldn’t there be a serious financial effort toward harvesting solar power What Is Solar Energy And Why Hasn't It Taken Off? What Is Solar Energy And Why Hasn't It Taken Off? What's the big deal with solar energy? If it's really as important and necessary as so many claim it to be, why hasn't it taken over the energy industry yet? Read More from space?

photovoltaic

In practice, a space solar power project might work something like this:

7. Solar Wind

While we’re on the subject of space, let’s talk about solar wind Catch An Aurora! 5 Of The Best Tools To Spot The Magical Polar Lights Catch An Aurora! 5 Of The Best Tools To Spot The Magical Polar Lights This winter is one of the best times to see polar lights. The next best time is in about 10 years, so you better catch them now. Be in the right place at the right... Read More .

The solar wind consists of an enormous number of charged particles, emitted by the sun at very high speeds.  In principle, these particles can be used to generate electricity by using an enormous solar sail and a charged wire, which generates energy from the solar wind passing along it.  According to preliminary analysis by the University of Washington, the amount of power you can generate is essentially limitless, constrained only by the size of the solar sail you deploy.

Sounds good? It would be – if such a solar sail could be produced and launched into an appropriate orbit.

IKAROS

It’s worth noting that that isn’t as far-fetched as you might think. Japan’s Aerospace Exploration Agency successfully launched IKAROS (Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation of the Sun) in 2010, becoming the first spacecraft to utilise solar-sailing as its main form of propulsion. Their continued exploration Can We Contribute To Space Exploration? These 7 Online Tools Say We Can Can We Contribute To Space Exploration? These 7 Online Tools Say We Can What about the man on the sidewalk? The high-schooler in the science class? The mother who once dreamt of suiting up for a space flight? Will there dreams remain so, or can they contribute to... Read More is providing immensely valuable data Robotic Fabric May Advance Space Exploration and Medical Care Robotic Fabric May Advance Space Exploration and Medical Care Imagine a second-skin that contorts on command and is filled with sensors. That's exactly what researchers at Purdue University are trying to do with their development of a robotic fabric. Read More to research scientists in a number of key areas.

That said, IKAROS is much smaller than the sails being considered, so don’t hold your breath for solar wind to become a practical option in the immediate future.

8. Jellyfish

Our oceans are becoming more acidic. As such, Jellyfish populations are soaring. Most of them aren’t for human consumption Safe Or Scary -- How To Identify Which Wildlife Is Really Dangerous Safe Or Scary -- How To Identify Which Wildlife Is Really Dangerous Some creatures are venomous predators whose bites and stings can be dangerous to humans. How can you know which animals are cause for alarm? Use these online guides to stay safe outdoors. Read More , but they may prove to be more useful How Eel Drones Will Turn The Tide On Underwater Warfare How Eel Drones Will Turn The Tide On Underwater Warfare The U.S. government is now pouring significant resources into the development and deployment of unmanned undersea drones. Read More for another global issue. Swedish researchers have been steadily liquifying large numbers of Aequorea victoria, a glowing jellyfish common to the shores of North America.

Jellyfish

WHY? I hear you cry.  For power, of course! The Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) contained within the jellyfish can be used to create miniature fuel-cells that could be used to power a generation of medical nano-devices How Nanotechnology is Changing the Future of Medicine How Nanotechnology is Changing the Future of Medicine The potential for nanotechnology is unprecedented. True universal assemblers will usher in a profound shift in the human condition. Of course, there's still a long way to go. Read More .

GFP, applied to aluminium electrodes and exposed to ultra-violet light generates power measuring in the “tens of nano-amperes.”

GFP

It’s not insignificant. The development of biological fuels could enable further research into bio-nanotechnologies that require no external fuel or electrical current to continue functioning. If the technology could be scaled-up, it could be extremely useful in the long-run, especially if our oceanic acidity issue continues.

Other Alternative Power Sources?

Some of the energy sources we’ve looked at here are bizarre, but many may have practical applications down the line. Others are already around us, providing us with alternative energy in our day-to-day.  This sort of energy research is critical, if we wish to continue to sustain our growing civilization without irreparably damaging the planet.

What is your favourite alternative power source? Do you have any ideas for alternative power generation? We’d like to hear them. Let us know below!

Image Credits: London Underground via Wikimedia Commons Mall of America via Flickr Swedish Biogas Train via Wikimedia Commons Counterfeit Alcohol via Wikimedia Commons SFD System via superfaiths.com Adults Wearing Diapers via Wikimedia Commons Piezo Dancefloor via ecofriend.com Electric Lighter via Wikimedia Commons CERN via michaelhall.co.uk NASA Suntower via Wikimedia Commons, Photovoltaic Tile via pixabay.com IKAROS via Wikimedia Commons, Aequorea Victoria via Wikimedia Commons, Green Fluorescent Protein via Wikimedia Commons

  1. Paul Maher
    November 19, 2016 at 5:33 pm

    Over the years I have collected 62 new and exciting ways generating and storing electricity. Favorites on my list are Low Energy Nuclear Reactions, also known as CECR and LENR. Thermoelectric Photovoltaic hybrids known as TE-PV are looking pretty good, and the field of MultiFerroics is growing. Of course I can't leave out the Work of Vladimir Krstic and his claims that he can replace a 1177 lb battery in Tesla's HotRod with a 40 lb daisychained ceramic battery, and charge it in 2 minutes.
    Bottom line is that there is one heck of a lot going on in energy generation and storage.
    @pmaher_art

  2. sonydavid
    October 7, 2016 at 12:54 pm

    Sir I have a great idea for generating electricity for gravity forces I am finished my experiment but I want mechanical engineering suppot. I am a electrician working in Dubai.you will help me

    • Sankar Ray
      November 6, 2016 at 3:27 pm

      Hey, I am a graduate in mechanical engineering. Doing my own research in the mecho-electro system. You sound interesting. I am looking forward into the further process.

  3. Bomby Oganson
    August 29, 2016 at 7:57 pm

    Another method of electricity production: magnets.

    What you could do, is create a turbine that spins the generator, like in windmills. But, instead of wind, use magnets. Let's say you have a strong positive magnet. What you could do, is stick small positive magnets on the turbine, or make the turbine itself positively charged, then hold the strong magnet next to the turbine. The turbine will spin without end, generating electricity. The only problem, is that in order to generate a large amount of electricity, the whole generator system must be large and powerful (it will cost a lot of money).

    • Paul Maher
      November 19, 2016 at 5:41 pm

      40 years ago I had recurrent dreams of such a machine. It drove me a little whacko for awhile. Now the thing has come down to something called Magnetic Field Regauging. To many moving parts and to expensive. I much prefer the fruits of Condensed Matter Physics such as LENR, Metamaterials, and Nanotechnology.

  4. Shikhar kothari
    July 29, 2016 at 10:28 am

    thanx guys u just helped me in my biggest worries, that is NCSC (National Children Science Congress) wish me luck.!!

  5. wle
    July 6, 2016 at 2:31 pm

    all very expensive to implement..
    they could not replace .001% of current energy use, either.
    so - NOT PRACTICAL
    just clickbait
    wle

  6. Shreyansh Jaiswal
    May 25, 2016 at 2:12 pm

    generate electricity from electromagnetic waves

  7. Shreyansh Jaiswal
    May 25, 2016 at 2:07 pm

    we must use electro mag wave to genreate eletricity!!!

  8. Shreyansh Jaiswal
    May 25, 2016 at 2:04 pm

    use radio - wave to generate electricty

  9. Trump Bjerke
    April 20, 2016 at 4:02 pm

    like cemment and subscribe to trump on youtube

    • luke
      May 26, 2016 at 10:03 am

      no thuis gu is a outrage no more Mexican killers any more

  10. Trump Bjerke
    April 20, 2016 at 3:59 pm

    All is good in the hood except for trump hillary and sanders they suck 8----D

  11. WePlay
    April 7, 2016 at 1:57 am

    Use Eletricity to create eletricity!

    If you were able to take away using coal you would have no heat source...but connecting 1 big wire to a heat source that can heat up high enough if whould be able to generate steam therefor creating energy

    • Chris
      November 8, 2016 at 2:29 am

      The Laws of Thermodynamics do not permit this to happen. Read the law of conservation of energy.

  12. John Mazolla
    March 23, 2016 at 5:33 pm

    john mazolla here, and this is shit...

  13. EnergyBook
    December 23, 2015 at 8:10 am

    There are already some great ways of generating electricity that are technically and economically feasible - Energy from Waste, wind, solar and water power - not to mention nuclear. The problem is that many people don't like them - in the same way that (rightly) many people don't like coal fired power generation.

    It's always good to look for new sources but if you understand basic physics and maths (economics) many of the above and some that are mentioned in the comments just don't stack up - or in the case of body heat - are already being used.

  14. Jason
    December 13, 2015 at 1:25 am

    Isn't there some way of harnessing lightning?

  15. Lyn Earl
    December 6, 2015 at 8:21 pm

    Please take a look at this website 'Fourivers-Technology.com'. It explains how my husbands invention would work for generating electricity! We have patents in America, Japan and Australia.

  16. Habidur Rahman
    October 23, 2015 at 10:09 am

    I m just searching for source of making electricity by simple things and of course getting most more device in 2022 it will generated more than (20Mev) its not harm full to human being
    and it will porudce less amount of heat .

    ("i just need some idea from expert of electricity in froriegn countrys")

    • Gavin Phillips
      October 26, 2015 at 12:00 pm

      Thanks for reading, Habidur.

      Unfortunately most of the ideas on this list are not entirely simple, though many have promise as seen with the piezoelectric plates found in the Tokyo Subway, and alongside the Israeli railway.

      The 20MeV Thorium Reactors are both complex and some way off.

  17. Garrett Peterson
    September 28, 2015 at 12:38 am

    I'm just having fun here. I don't want to seem too stupid.

  18. Garrett Peterson
    September 28, 2015 at 12:36 am

    Ok, so I thought about a fun idea by imagining a giant ball crashing into Antarctica where the gravitational force of collision could be harnessed in a series of nets. But if we could do that, then we may as well make our own tidal waves in the ocean and use the tidal energy produced AND the gravitational energy from the giant ball, so it'd be like a double whammy. But then I thought about another idea where if a giant, MAGNETIC ball was launched very high and then falls back to earth only to be opposed by the worlds most powerful magnetic field that spits the ball back really high into the sky and the ball would continue to move back and forth like a piston.

    • Gavin Phillips
      October 26, 2015 at 12:05 pm

      Wow, Garrett, some really interesting ideas. Controlling the tidal waves would be extremely difficult, and one would wonder about the consequences of presumably destroying Antarctica? in the process. But more work should be done to harness tidal power. Have you seen the submerged turbines (look like wind turbines) for tidal power collection? Or the tidal pool under construction in Swansea, UK?

      The magnetic piston sounds awesome.

      • FrozenRocket
        October 27, 2015 at 10:07 am

        Have you ever thought about friction? If the magnetic piston would come into reality, then eventually it would have to stop. Let's take the example of the perpetual engine, which is purely theoretical and impractical in normal conditions (friction from the particles). The piston idea is a different form of it, but functions according to the same theory. Therefore, it would be best to conclude that the idea must best be left there for now as we have to explore options that are practical either in the future or if possible today. Have a great day!

  19. dragonmouth
    March 1, 2015 at 4:50 pm

    The only problem with hydrogen is that, currently, it takes more energy to produce it than one will get out of it.

    • Gavin
      March 2, 2015 at 1:49 pm

      Exactly. This issue is similar to that of bioethanol, and biodiesel. The cost of running and converting vehicles, plus growing the requisite amount of crop to service the vehicles isn't currently efficient enough. But adding biodiesel to regular diesel as an additive reduces emissions.

  20. A41202813GMAIL
    February 27, 2015 at 11:39 am

    A - Is Hydrogen Safe Storage Already Available ?

    If The Answer Is Yes, Then ICELAND Will Make A Fortune.

    All They Need Is Water, Everything Else They Already Have.

    B - Injecting Water In Their Deep Magma Underground Will Generate Super Hot Water And Steam,

    C - With ( B ) Or ( D ) It Is Possible To Generate Huge Amounts Of Electricity,

    D - With Water And ( C ) It Is Possible To Generate Hydrogen ( And Oxygen, Too ),

    E - Now, If ( A ) Is True, You Can Ship Hydrogen Worldwide.

    With 1 Source You Can Generate Most Others.

    This Will Be Extremely Cheap And, The Best Part, This Cross Generating Means Absolutely Zero Pollution.

    Cars Could Have Cheap Hydrogen Cells, And So On, And So On, You Get The Idea.

    Cheers.

    • Gavin
      February 27, 2015 at 4:47 pm

      Safe hydrogen storage is a global research target. Graphene-based hydrogen tanks have been proposed as the next advance for this technology - super strong, can withstand pressure and is relatively cheap.

    • A41202813GMAIL
      February 27, 2015 at 4:58 pm

      @Gavin

      Thank You For Responding.

  21. Mike
    February 26, 2015 at 4:26 pm

    The best energy advice, wear condoms and limit your childbearing to 2 or fewer per family. Give the rest of the world's critters some breathing room.

  22. Milo
    February 26, 2015 at 12:03 am

    Can any of this be deployed on a large scale within the next 10-20 years? No? Then it ain't gonna do jack sh-t for climate change.

    • Gavin
      February 27, 2015 at 4:45 pm

      Well, I think some of it can as it's already in place. It just needs scaling up. Certainly piezoelectric energy capture will be seen more and more as the technology evolves. The research for smaller, localised devices is also needed. However, the mini-thorium plants are perhaps more fanciful.

      • FrozenRocket
        October 27, 2015 at 10:12 am

        When talking about it in a certain viewpoint, Milo is absolutely correct. First of all, look at the problems relating to cost and also whether the ideas are practical on a large scale in 'most' cases. For cost, it can clearly be seen that implementing these technologies within a micro-cost limit would be unlikely and corruption from the government would slow down or even slash the process. Secondly, the practicality of all of these new sources of energy are i)Mostly in theory or ii)Implementable only in metropolitan areas and not in the remaining regions (villages, mainly) in the world. Please consider what I am saying.

  23. Shawn Rosvold
    February 25, 2015 at 6:36 pm

    Tidal power.

    • Gavin
      February 27, 2015 at 4:43 pm

      Indeed. The world's first wave array has just gone online in Australia:

      http://ecowatch.com/2015/02/20/worlds-first-wave-energy-array-goes-online/

      There is another awesome wave based project based near where I live, focused on using wave power to desalinate water. Pretty handy near the sea, and I think they have a trial in progress on the Isles of Scilly.

  24. Gene Baker
    February 25, 2015 at 5:25 pm

    Using body heat for heating is nothing new many large buildings with interiors not exposed to the outside requires cooling in the winter. I would be interested in how the building is kept warm in the mornings after a cold night without people without heating beyond doorway heat. I suspect there is supplemental heating used for the mornings.

  25. dragonmouth
    February 25, 2015 at 3:47 pm

    "the sheer cost of putting the equipment into orbit"
    Let's face it, none of the energy generating/collecting methods you mention in the article are exactly cheap. While body heat is free, collecting and converting it to electricity is not. The one big advantage beamed energy from space has over all other alternative generating methods is its density. Earthbound solar panels are limited by the atmosphere to only certain frequecies that they can collect. In space, solar light can be collected in a much wider range of frequencies.

    Another largely untapped energy source are health clubs and gyms. Any human-powered device can be hooked up to a converter to capture the energy of motion. While any one person using a bike, a life-cycle or a weight machine may not generate a lot of electricity, multiply that by thousands or millions and we're talking about a lot electricity. At least enough to satisfy all the needs of a particular health club or gym.

    • Gavin
      February 27, 2015 at 4:39 pm

      Hey Dragonmouth,

      Some gyms are using piezoelectric plates to capture the energy exerted at the gym, and there are a couple of instances of gym rooms/work-out areas (I don't gym, I have no idea what this area is called...perhaps just "the gym") being entirely powered by the clientele. But as someone else mentioned, there is still some backup electricity used to heat some buildings in the winter - but that may also be down to poor insulation, too.

      http://imgur.com/r/simpsons/uzzW4

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