Eccentric Energy: Animal Power
This month, the new David Attenborough TV series “Dynasties” and food retailer Iceland’s controversial advert about palm oil deforestation destroying orangutan habitats have hit the headlines. The level of media coverage seems to prove that animals are at the forefront of our minds and concerns. So this month’s Eccentric Energy considers the animal kingdom’s potential for generating electricity - and humanity’s ability to create a more sustainable future for us all.
From cool (and hot) cephalopods…
We’ve all heard about chameleons changing colour, but did you know cephalopods (including octopus and squids) also have skin that can change appearance? The University of California, Irvine and fitness brand Under Armour have been investigating how to use this characteristic to make materials and devices that heat and cool on demand. This relates to the company’s desire to develop truly innovative gym clothes, of course. However, it may be possible for large-scale energy users (e.g. buildings) to use this technology to improve energy efficiency.
… to methane magic…
The agriculture industry is one of the world’s biggest contributors to climate change. Methane, produced from livestock’s manure and flatulence, is 21 times more efficient than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere. Although this is detrimental to our planet, organisations are finding ways to turn it to our advantage. For example, BioEnergy Solutions extracts the methane from cow excrement and converts it into biogas fuel - enough to power 200,000 households.
… and the whale and the wind
Humpback whales have a series of bumps along the leading edge of their fins, which improves their efficiency in the water rather than hinders it. Using this insight, Professor Frank Fish of West Chester University in America designed a blade for wind turbines that could get more lift (and therefore more energy) from the wind. His company, WhalePower Corporation, tests and markets the blades.