Above: Image © istockphoto.com/LisLud
“Alternative energy”, once just a media buzzword, has found its way into everyday language. But as the term becomes more familiar, will the technologies it refers to become increasingly mainstream? The latest developments in the field suggest that they will.
Understanding alternative energy
Alternative energy, also called sustainable or renewable energy, refers to methods of generating energy that greatly reduce negative impacts on the environment. In particular, they avoid creating the harmful emissions associated with fossil-fuel generation, like gas or coal power. This makes alternative energy a major component of plans to combat climate change.
Next-generation solar power
One of the most popular forms of alternative energy is solar power. After all, the Sun is the most abundant and obvious source of energy on Earth. More than 10,000 homes in the United States are already powered entirely by solar energy. And next-generation photovoltaic cells are being developed with unique properties that could allow your phone or laptop to charge itself.
The development of next-generation batteries is also very important to the field of alternative energy. As anyone with a smartphone knows, battery technology has failed to keep pace with increasingly “thirsty” high-tech devices. Drawing inspiration from the natural world, new batteries have begun using innovative materials to pack more energy into less space.
Implanted medical devices
What’s better than a long-lasting battery? How about a permanent energy source for implanted medical devices? Researchers are trying to find ways of harnessing the human body’s excess energy and use it to power pacemakers and other medical devices. This would help avoid costly and potentially dangerous surgical procedures just to change a battery.
Generate power with your footsteps
What if buildings could generate their own power using the movements of the people inside? That’s the idea being pursued by one young company, which plans to use flexible flooring to harvest energy from footsteps, energy that could power lights and other household devices.