Tag Archive for 'energy'

What else can you power with solar energy?

Solar powered device 1 Taking advantage of solar energy means dedicating a significant size of your roof space to large, unwieldy solar panels, right?

The answer is, of course, no. You can buy solar panels in all sorts of sizes, ranging from a square foot or less to an entire yard-size. Of course, if you want to get all of your home power from solar energy, you’ll have to invest in a large span of panels. But if you’re looking for a smaller, cheaper place to begin your relationship with the sun, why not start by powering your personal electronics?

Several companies now offer solar power packs that are small, attractive, and portable. They’re meant for powering devices like CD and MP3 players, speakers, and cell phones. While prices can range up into the hundreds for elaborate systems, some companies like Solar Style offer small packs for as little as $27.99.

Portable solar power packs from Solar Style
Solar powered device 2
How do they do it? We start with the most essential item: the photovoltaic cells that capture energy from the sun. In fact, the sun isn’t even necessary; light from any source can be converted into usable energy. Of course, the more intense the light, the more energy you will store.

The next step is to store the energy. Solar packs have an on-board battery that acts as your savings account for the energy you collect. Leave your power pack collecting light whenever you can, and save the energy for later. (But don’t turn on a houselight specifically to shine on the pack – that’s just being silly!)

Now, the only remaining step is getting that power to your electronic devices. All you need for this is the right connector. Most purchase options include some connectors for cell phones and music players. If your device has an unusual power connector, you may have to buy one separately. The point is, you can power any device this way, as long as you have the connector.

At these prices, there is no reason not to purchase a solar power pack. The devices are small and convenient, and can eliminate the need for an outlet – thus allowing us to truly enter the wireless age. In addition to convenience, these gadgets are green. Instead of using expensive electricity from the power grid, which increases carbon emissions and dependence on foreign oil, you can tap into a free, renewable energy source that already surrounds you.

Check out the websites of Solar Dyne, Radio Labs, and Solar Style for more on their products.

Motion to Energy: Powering Devices the Kinetic Way

M2E Mobile Phone

The search for practical, cheap energy sources ranges from the exotic to the minute. Fossil fuels are shipped in from faraway countries. The energy of the atom is released and then re-harnessed. The steam vents of volcanoes are tapped.

But many renewable energy options take advantage of sources that are right in front of our faces. Solar power “steals” energy from the natural sunlight that already floods our planet every day. The wind and the ocean allow us to borrow mechanical energy from the natural motion of the environment.

Mobile phone As energy explorers become even more creative, they look even closer to home. The human body is almost always in motion. As you race around town conducting business or relaxing with friends, your personal possessions join you in this state of perpetual motion. Why not take advantage of this motion as an energy source for your personal electronics? M2E’s new battery technology promises to do exactly this.

The principle of motion-to-energy has been around for a long time. When a coil of wire is placed in a changing magnetic field, a current is induced in the coil. The changing magnetic field is supplied by mounting a magnet on springs. Every time the contraption gets a little jostle, the magnet moves back and forth, inducing a current. This setup is coupled with a battery that stores the induced electrical energy.

M2E’s major breakthrough was the production of a small-size setup that can handle high-power devices. This technological step, achieved at the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory, makes M2E feasible for use in cutting-edge modern electronics.

How will this help your high-tech life? Cell phones are a prime target for the use of M2E technology.

Current cell phone batteries have all sorts of disadvantages. To start with, they’re annoying. You continually need to plug them in to recharge. And if you’re caught away from your charger when your battery runs out, your lines of communication are gone.

What’s more, traditional cell phone batteries are guilty of all sorts of environmental crimes. They contain toxic materials that are difficult to dispose of safely. They waste energy when left plugged in for too long. And of course, that energy is drawn from the usual supply: the cocktail of power arising from gas, coal, and oil that is supplied by your power company. This means you’re leaving a carbon footprint and paying for it as well.

Motion to Energy But with M2E technology, your cell phone could recharge just by using the slight motions that are part of everyday life. Every time you turn your head while you talk, or move the phone across the room by pacing, you get a little bonus in your battery’s energy storage. Your phone will recharge even while you’re not using it; just carry it around with you and it will continually recharge.