We are living in the "Information Age." Nearly every thing we touch is connected with the internet, a never-ending digital warehouse of knowledge, entertainment, and connectivity. We hold in our pockets devices with capabilities people could only fantasize about 50 years ago. The downside is, all this technology requires a lot of electricity. Just let the battery die, and the only thing that fancy iPhone will be good for is a paperweight. That's why designers and inventors are experimenting with people-power. As long as we're breathing, humans are a source of endless energy. Here are some of our favorite gadgets that can harvest that energy in ways that actually make off-grid life pretty spectacular.
Pedal-Powered GiraDora Washer
Electric washers and dryers seem pretty darn convenient until the power goes out. Then, unless you’ve got a washtub, scrub board, and a lot of elbow grease, you’re going to be re-wearing socks until it comes back on. In countries that don’t enjoy washing machines (or the electricity to run them), the GiraDora pedal-powered washing machine/spin dryer is a dream come true. The portable plastic tub can be filled with soap and water before a lid is placed on top, acting as a seat. Then, all the user needs to do is rest on the washer, and pump the spring-loaded foot pedal. Besides eliminating the back-breaking part of this chore, it also helps conserve water.
Soccket Energy-Generating Soccer Ball
Even though the pedal-powered washing machine makes a chore a lot easier, it’s still a chore. The Soccket ball actually allows you to reap the energy-generating benefits of having fun. Endowed with a small internal pendulum, the water-proof plaything harnesses energy as its movement turns a generator connected to a rechargeable battery. The energy captured in only 30 minutes of playing soccer can be used to power a small LED lamp for three hours.
Body Heat-Powered Flashlight
Ever really needed a flashlight to investigate a scary noise in the basement, or light the way to the bathroom when the power was out, only to find yours full of dead batteries? Ann Makosinski, a 15-year-old Canadian girl, recently developed a working thermoelectric flashlight that needs nothing but the heat of your hand to illuminate several bright LEDs. “My design is ergonomic, thermodynamically efficient, and only needs a five degree temperature difference to work and produce up to 5.4 mW at 5 foot candles of brightness,” explains Makosinski.
Walking instead of driving is a great way to burn some calories without producing toxic emissions, but there’s no reason for all those calories to simply go to waste as body fuel. The nPower PEG is a compact device that looks kind of like a shock absorber. Hang it off your backpack or simply toss it inside, and this gadget will harvest the kinetic energy of your stepping movements and send it to an onboard battery. You’ll never have to search for an outlet, and your devices will never run out of power.
Gadget-Charging Sleeping Bag
Music festivals and camping trips are both staple summer activities, but both put us far from an available power outlet. Although it’s nice to unplug, it’s also nice to have a working mobile phone in case your friends get lost or someone gets injured. As a solution, Vodafone recently unveiled the “Recharge Sleeping Bag,” a prototype of a sleeping bag that can harvest thermal energy from body heat and use it to charge your phone. According to Vodafone, eight hours in the sleeping bag will translate to roughly 24 minutes of talk time — just enough juice to make a call or two to meet up with your friends or alert the authorities.
Like electricity, clean water is a part of life we take for granted until it isn’t there. Most of us rely on municipal water treatment plants or high-tech filtration systems to provide us with clean drinking water, but they might not be necessary if you’ve got the Aquaduct Bike. Winner of the ’08 Innovate or Die competition, it works by using a pedal-driven peristaltic pump to drive water from its trunk through a filter into a clean tank. The Aquaduct Bike can carry enough water for an entire family, and can filter while moving or stationary.
Lead image via nycstreets/Flickr