Human Propelled Energy: Right Under Our Nose

Human Propelled Energy: Right Under Our Nose

Although humans still struggle to create, embrace and utilize clean energy it remains an uphill battle when special interest groups worry more about the bottom line than the health of our planet. This is why some innovators have taken matters into their own hands, literally. Human propelled energy is the ability to harness energy that comes from human activity without impeding humans in any way. As citizens go about their business walking to their job or squeezing in a lunchtime workout, there are and continues to be a variety of ways to capture energy that is emanating as it is being used. Below are a few examples of what may transpire into another clean energy player.

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Japan Railway Feet

The Tokyo East Japan Railway Manourachi north exit was chosen in 2006 as an experiment in foot traffic. Approximately 700,000 commuters walked over installed sensors on the floor beneath each turnstile. The sensors or piezoelectric elements converted each step into an electrical charge that is then stored in a nearby generator and used to power lights, info boards and more.

Stockholm Railway Heat

The railway station in Stockholm is harnessing heat energy from the 250,000 people that crowd through the system each day. Through a specialized ventilation system accumulated body heat is passed through an exchanger that heats a central water system reducing office heating energy demand by fifteen percent.

Steaming Oregon Students

In response to a national mechanical design competition Oregon State University (OSU) engineering students invented a group of devices that could be powered by humans to produce potable drinking water from polluted sources by turning it into filtered, clean, steam. The idea came about as hundreds of people were stranded on rooftops after Hurricane Katrina yet surrounded by blocks of potential drinking water. OSU professor, Ping Ge comments, “It could potentially bring safe drinking water to millions of people worldwide who have limited access to potable water, and could also be used in emergency situations.”

Compaq Keyboards

Computer manufacturer Compaq has created a laptop battery powering keyboard prototype. By installing tiny magnets under each key, energy is transferred to a capacitor upon each stroke. The capacitor transfers the stored energy to the computer’s battery extending its life by hours.

Internal Power Plant

University of Texas at Austin is using internal powered energy to someday power implanted sensors, such as a pacemaker. Chemists have found that by using enzyme glucose oxidase, electrons can be harnessed and used as power.


Nanotechnology takes it to a whole new level at the Georgia Institute of technology (GIT). Scientists have found a way to utilize zinc oxide nano-wires. When these tiny strands are moved or bent energy is created. Put them in clothing or another application and powering your cell may become a lot easier. GIT Dr. Zhong Lin Wang comments, “This development represents a milestone toward producing portable electronics that can be powered by body movements without the use of batteries or electrical outlets.”

Human propelled energy is on the horizon. Who knew one of our energy answers was right under our nose.

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