Coming Soon: Recycled Electricity

What if, instead of using energy once we could recycle it? A new way of generating electricity from truck traffic at the Port of Oakland in California is doing just that, a promising step toward the coming electricity cycle. Nature is defined by cycles — the water cycle, the carbon cycle, and so on. Humans have messed both of those up severely of course, but water still evaporates, turns to rain, and then empties into the ocean or gets sucked up in plants, where it repeats the process. The Port of Oakland experiment might help save civilization by creating an electricity cycle, harvesting electricity from cars, trucks even people (like the AI in The Matrix, except without the human enslavement).


Entrepreneur Terry Kenny has taken a big step toward building the same sort of cycle using the energy released when huge diesel-powered tractor-trailer trucks come lumbering into the Port of Oakland to pick up and drop off shipping containers. His system uses massive pressure plates built into the road that compress hydraulic fluid that is used to turn a generator. It generates enough power each day to power around 1,750 homes.

Daily truck traffic through the Port of Oakland is around 2,500. What if the same device was installed on an interstate, where hundreds of thousands of cars pass by each day? What if all of those cars were themselves electric, instead of gas or diesel? They may never power themselves entirely (that would be tantamount to perpetual motion) but an electricity cycle like that is possible.

Similar, smaller devices are already popping up to harvest human power, too. Clothing and sneakers could soon recharge your phone or iPod while you walk. Even medical devices implanted inside you can feast on the chemical energy stored in your body. Our natural 98.6 degree thermal energy might even be an good source of juice for the electronics of the future.

It all sounds a little like a precursor to The Matrix, true, but building this kind of energy scavenging into our civilization is vital. It could vastly improve energy efficiency around the world, and maybe — just maybe — help us to support our exploding global population without destroying the planet in the process. It could even be a big part of exploring other planets.

So maybe we need to admit it — the evil Matrix AI actually had pretty good idea going.

Source: TreeHugger