From: Triplepundit.com – May 27, 2008
Using the same technology that allows hybrid cars to recycle braking energy, Max Donelan invented a gadget that produces power from the human knee - capable of producing 2.5 watts of electricity per leg. The unit is not too practical at the moment, but the technology and potential is sound. Currently the knee power generator weighs in at 3.5 lbs and it looks very awkward to have strapped on. Although 2.5 watts doesn’t seem like too much it is enough to power 5 mobile phones free of charge or resource.
With the rising costs of energy, creative ways of generating power cheaply are needed. As the days of inexpensive power are over, a little energy scavenging coupled with energy efficiency is as good a plan as any. Adversity drives innovation and the growing global energy crisis is spawning unexpected ideas into usable products and systems.
Scientists are actually on the hunt for "free" energy sources and have found success by harvesting power from the environment, heat and motion, and industrial activities. “It’s a very hot topic,” says Marc Poulshock, president of Thermo Life. “Energy scavenging has been around for years, but because of the fuel crisis, everyone from big companies to small ones is looking to utilize it.” Thermo Life produces devices that draw thermoelectric energy. Among the most abundant forms of unused energy is that of vibrations created from environmental motion. More specifically, imagine the vibrations from a bridge or dance floor. This movement is free since it occurs quite naturally due to transportation and social activities. There are now a number of ways that scientists have discovered to harness this vibration motion into electricity. This power is limited however, it will never be enough to compete with wind or water power generation but it does have its potential to be useful. One idea fostered was that the power generated from vibrations on a bridge could be used to power sensors that monitor the structural integrity or power traffic cameras.
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While the "energy crisis" will naturally encourage a search for solutions in unexpected places, the knee-power-generator actually is rather awkward looking. Irrespective of the low wattage available from these devices at present, I suspect that it will take some very innovative marketing for the idea of walking around with such a gadget, as a "green-living / energy efficiency" means of generating power, to become widely accepted!