July 24, 2013

Ever heard of the road that helped to power a building, or the battery smaller than the size of your thumbnail powering up your gadgets? Well as outlandish as all these things may seem, these and others are just the latest in a range of energy innovations that are set to revolutionise the way we will ‘power up’ in the future.

While domestic heating oil users will be used to the energy they need flowing neatly from their heating tanks to their boilers, and into their homes, they could soon be using heating oil alongside a range of forward-thinking, energy-generating devices.

Energy-generating roads

Cars are better known for guzzling rather than conserving energy, but now thanks to a revolutionary type of energy-generating road, drivers are able to hit the road and drive up power supplies at the same time.

The Israeli Road Electric Generation Project piloted the idea of creating an energy-generating road in 2008, using stress and vibrations on the road from passing vehicles to generate energy to feed into the grid.

The positive results of testing on piezoelectric road systems in Israel led to the proposal of a similar system being set up in California in 2011, as part of the “The California Pavement Energy Initiative”, with the hope that the bill will be approved at some point in the future.

Super-small batteries

The best things come in small packages and that definitely seems to be true for the latest energy innovation – the super small battery.

Developed by researcher Jennifer Lewis at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the micro-batteries can power miniature devices including micro-cameras, medical devices and insect-sized robots.

Now Lewis is planning to take battery power to even tinier levels, using a 3D printer to create batteries that are as small as a grain of sand.

Commenting on the new development, Lewis said: “Not only did we demonstrate for the first time that we can 3D-print a battery; we demonstrated it in the most rigorous way.” 

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