Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Shake Rattle and Roll with Kinetic Energy
Capturing motion and converting it into usable energy, otherwise known as kinetic energy is making the news. A supermarket in England has launched a program in one of its stores that uses kinetic energy to power its checkout lines. The kinetic energy is harvested from the vehicles entering and exiting the store's parking lot.
The framework to capture kinetic energy is comprised of a series of magnets and coils that produce energy based on vibrations or kinetics - movement.
But is kinetic energy a viable energy alternative? There are some factions of the environmental mindset that argue against the aforementioned UK model as fossil fuels are being burned to create the energy. Others argue that the fuel would be spent otherwise and harnessing the kinetic energy produced from the traffic is converting a resource which would be otherwise wasted - an energy recovery system.
Making the news at this time last year was another kinetic energy story that followed the same principles as those applied in the UK. The Dragon Power Station was an experiment set up at the Port of Oakland to harness the kinetic energy of the more than 2500 semi trucks and trailers that rolled in and out of the facility on a daylong basis. Estimated to produce upwards of 7000 kWh of electricity the Dragon would contribute five percent of the port facility's total energy demand.
Cleaner applications of kinetic energy are being used and developed on a smaller scale including the nPower PEG. This little gizmo uses your kinetic energy to recharge your iPod, cell phone or digital camera.
The makers of the personal, portable generating station - Tremont Electric of Ohio - claim that the units, which can be carried in your backpack or worn on your waist or arm charge at the same rate as a wall charger."If our entire target market used the PEG to recharge their cell phones for an hour each day, instead of plugging into a wall outlet, they would reduce the amount of electricity needed from the grid by 25.4 million kilowatts," says inventor and Tremont founder Aaron LeMieux. "That’s enough energy to power 21,000 households for an entire year!"
Even smaller applications of kinetic energy are being developed. On the health care front a micro kinetic energy battery is being fine-tuned for potential use in pacemakers.