5″ x 7″ watercolor
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We go to great lengths devising ways to harvest energy that accommodates our insatiable daily demands. Digging massive holes in our planet with sci-fi-like contraptions to suck out oil, and literally moving mountains with explosives to unearth coal (aka mountain-top removal mining) are a few such examples of how far we’ll take it. But why do we exclusively go looking for energy that we’re already creating? This is what two MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning students, James Graham and Thaddeus Jusczyk, asked themselves.
MIT has published this article elaborating on the students’ concept of harvesting the energy of people with the “Crowd Farm.” An overview goes something like this:
“The so-called “Crowd Farm,”…would turn the mechanical energy of people walking or jumping into a source of electricity.
A Crowd Farm in Boston’s South Station railway terminal would work like this: A responsive sub-flooring system made up of blocks that depress slightly under the force of human steps would be installed beneath the station’s main lobby. The slippage of the blocks against one another as people walked would generate power through the principle of the dynamo, a device that converts the energy of motion into that of an electric current.
The Crowd Farm is not intended for home use. According to Graham and Jusczy, a single human step can only power two 60W light bulbs for one flickering second. But get a crowd in motion, multiply that single step by 28,527 steps, for example, and the result is enough energy to power a moving train for one second.”
I’m sure my meek engineering-left-brain does not grasp the vast complexities of implementing such a concept, but it does seem to be a terribly obvious alternative, if not at least a supplemental form of significant energy.