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HARVESTING HUMANS FOR ENERGY. Presentation by: Emily Inskeep [email protected] For Energy Law – Spring 2007 Chicago-Kent College of Law. INTRODUCTION. Steadily increasing global energy consumption causes growing numbers of environmental problems.

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Harvesting humans for energy l.jpg


Presentation by: Emily Inskeep

[email protected]

For Energy Law – Spring 2007

Chicago-Kent College of Law

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  • Steadily increasing global energy consumption causes growing numbers of environmental problems.

  • The United States and other countries throughout the world often cannot or are not willing to comply with the Kyoto agreements on CO2 reductions.

  • For this reason, societal and political pressure to develop products with lower energy consumption is building.

  • Volatility of oil prices highlights the dependence of the United States and other nation’s vulnerable economies on this precious oil. This situation is not likely to improve.

  • One Solution to the Problem?


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Energy Self-Sufficiency

  • Human Powered Energy is the idea of energy self-sufficiency brought down to an individual scale.

  • However, human power could be enlarged to include a number of local renewable energy needs, such as

    • Home power, the electricity independent home

    • Factory power, the firm

    • City power and possibly (hopefully) more

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  • Similar to the first wind-up phone, human powered products may appear to be “out of touch” with the times.

    • However, remember that the internal combustion engine is over 100 years old. Therefore, the problem is not outdated technology, but just poor performance.

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Environmental and Societal Benefits

  • These products do not consume energy from non-renewable sources during the “use-phase”.

  • Human energy is non-polluting

  • Societal Impact: human power is 100% green. More importantly, human powered products help their users to think in a different way: by encouraging your effort in ‘producing’ your own energy, the waste of energy is made apparent for once.

  • Finally, sustainable development might mandate a shift from global to local production consumption. Usually, this is a positive thing.

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The PlayPump System: The Water Problem

  • Access to clean drinking water is vital for human survival and is critical to improving the lives of those living in poverty in developing countries.


    • PlayPump System allows for easy access to clean drinking water, while simultaneously providing youth an outlet to play.

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Approach #1: A merry-go-round that pumps clean water? Its fun! And ingenious!

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How the PlayPump System Works

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Highly effective

Easy to operate

Very economical

Costs of maintenance minimal

Energy Efficient

Capable of producing up to 1,400 liters of water per hour at 16 rpm from a depth of 40 meters

Effective up to a depth of 100 meters

NOTE: a typical hand pump installation is not able to compete with the PlayPump system of delivery rate, even with substantial effort.


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Access to clean water is a key step in targeting the larger issues of health, education, gender, and economic issues.

Access to clean water allows families to live longer, healthier lives.

Children are playing

Children are staying in school instead of fetching water all day.

“Women benefit too!!

PlayPump system can increase awareness of how to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS through billboard messages.

Economic Benefits

Additional Benefits of PlayPump

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PlayPump has successfully installed over 700 PlayPump water systems in South Africa, benefiting more than 1 million people.

In 2006, PlayPumps increased the number of PlayPumps in South Africa, extending to Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, and Zambia.

By 2010, combined efforts of Playpumps and its partners will bring clean water to nearly 10 million through the additional installation of 4000 pumps in schools and villages in 10 sub-Saharan Africa.


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  • Letter from School Principal

    • “ . . .We are thinking of having a small garden at the school now that we have water. This will help (students) who are doing Agricultural Science to do practical work, which was never done previously.”

  • Letter from Treasure Mashego (Acornhoek, South Africa)"...Because our school was waterless for the past few years… learners (students) fainted at school due to thirst, so this is the prevention..."

  • Letter from Botshabelo Community Development Trust "... there are more positive ‘spin offs’ such as, people are now starting to grow their own vegetables and gardens and are now taking more pride in their homes and surroundings because fetching water is no longer considered ‘hard labor...."

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Idea #2: The Human-Powered Gym Spend free time sweating at the gym? Can that energy be put to better use?

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Discussion of Human-Powered Products

  • Environment tends to play a minimal role in the buying behaviors of consumers.

    • Only a small number of consumers can be labeled as “green buyers”. Most people are interested a products long shelf life, convenience and fun entertainment factor.

  • Eco-design only works in commercial practice when It can bring benefits to both users, society collectively.

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Creating green gyms where people pay their membership fees as usual, but swipe their membership cards before and after they use the machine for their daily workout.


Machines linked to large central generator, so if you are really working out you will be generating much more energy than is needed to power the machine display.

Idea of program: swipe cards monitor the time spent on the machine and determine if you were a net user or contributor of energy to the gym facility. At the end of the year, a rebate would be given to members in proportion to how much energy they generated for the gym.

Simple things we can do to save Planet Earth

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Expert Analysis of Green Gym

Graeme Bathurst, of independent energy consultancy TNEI, notes:

  • While this is possible, not sure if it is cost effective. Humans do not use very much energy.

  • For example, the average diet is 2000 calories per day. If all of that energy were converted to electrical energy a single human could run a 100 Watt light bulb for approximately 22 hours.

    • Problem? Humans temperature rises, so the energy burnt is not converted directly to mechanical movement and thus, not possible to harness the full energy usage.

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Example of Energy Harvesting on the Bike

  • A ten minute, hard effort work-out on a rowing machine for the average person will burn about 100 calories or enough energy to run the same 100 Watt light bulb for one hour.

  • BUT: must assume that the most we can harness of the energy output is 50%. Thus, the average power becomes 350W, which is equivalent to the exact amount of energy used in the rowing machine you are currently using.

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A Third Approach: Japan: Producing Electricity Through Train Station Ticket Gates

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Human Powered Electricity Generation System

  • When combined with a high-efficiency storage system, the ticket gate generators can serve as a clean source of additional power for the train stations.

  • Busy train stations with large number of commuters (willing to bounce heavily through gate), will allow for the accumulation of a fairly substantial amount of electricity.

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4th Idea: These Boots are Made for Power Walking

  • Sri International, research firm in Menlo Park, CA, is working with the Defense Dept to create a shoe that will convert the mechanical energy of walking into electric power to power up devices, such as batteries or cell phones.

  • Getting to the “sole” of the matter

    • The heel of the shoe will be made of a special elastic polymer.

    • A small battery positively charges one side of the flexible material and the other negatively.

    • As material is compressed and released (ex, the foot pressure conducted during walking), the distance between the positive and negative sides change, which produces electricity.

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Energy Harvesting with Boots

  • Science Fiction or Reality?

    • Reality!!! The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), has funded almost 2.6 million to SRI’s research.

    • Goal: develop non-traditional energy sources to power a future soldier’s equipment, such as radios and electronic gun sights.

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5th Idea: High-Tech Backpack Creates Energy While You Hike

  • Penn Biologists Invent Power-Generating Backpack

    • Backpack converts energy from walking into electricity—up to 7.4 Watts (power number of portable electronic devices)

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How Backpack Works

  • Suspended-load Backpack is based on a rigid frame (similar to hiking backpack).

    • But, rather than being rigidly attached to the frame, the sack carrying the load is suspended from the frame by vertically oriented springs.

    • The vertical movement of the backpack contents provides the mechanical energy used to drive a small generator mounted on the frame.

  • Amount of power produced depends on how much weight is in the pack and how fast the walker walks.

    • Ex, tested packs with loads of 40 to 80 pounds and found that the wearer could constantly generate as much as 7.4 Watts while moving at a steady pace. Typically, cell-phones require less than 1 Watt to power.

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6th Idea: The HumanCar is a street legal human powered car

  • Fully Manual 4 Passenger Human Car

  • The steel tube space frame chassis features a bilateral human power interface and front passenger body-steering capabilities.

  • The HumanCar is NOT about changing the world, but it is an alternative in an effort to make the world greener.

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HumanCar Design

  • The energy created by 4 humans is converted by the mechanism into rotational power creating useful work, such as to propel a wheeled frame capable of supporting the mechanism and its passengers.

  • A bi-directional power interface allows occupants to face forward or backward or in any combination. If each pair of occupants is placed back-to-back, and each adjacent pair is caused to create a controlled torque about a crankshaft, then power pulses may be balanced as much as possible about the crank shaft. The leaning motion from one or more occupants controls direction through a system of connecting members.

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  • Teamwork training

  • Work commuter

  • Third World Transportation Solution

  • Excellent polymeric training

  • Racing applications

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Approach #7: Foot-Powered Generator

  • Emergency weather situations have just gotten easier to live through due to the unique electric power generator that uses no fuel and produces no fumes.

  • EGAS is the world’s 1st power generator that is able to be used in an unventilated home because it does not use combustible fuel to produce power.

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How the EGAS Unit Works

  • 5 minutes of step-down effort can produce 30 minutes of usable power.

  • Used for emergency situations where fuel is limited and there is an immediate need for portable power.

  • Continuous energy output while user recharges its spring system.

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Last, but not least Yo-Yo Powered MP3 PlayerTo be a Kid Again . . .

  • Design Concept for a wireless yo-yo powered MP3 player.

  • Inventors estimate that between 10-12 tosses per hour are enough to play music.

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A yo-yo is just a rotor that needs some electromagnetic coils and a permanent magnet and viola you have a portable power generator.

Just install firmware, flash drive, a circular lithium ion battery, and wireless broadcaster and you have an amazing, longest lasting MP3 player in world.

Design Philosophy

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  • Human power requires no fuel meaning:

    • No geopolitical risk,

    • No external energy dependence,

    • No extraction or refining

    • No resource constraints

    • No CO2 emissions

  • Therefore, human energy is a great alternative for energy!

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