5 Sources of Alternative Energy You May Not Have Heard Of

Feb 04, 2010 by Miranda Marquit weblog
Could the mining moon provide a source of energy for Earth?

(PhysOrg.com) -- As fossil fuels increasingly fall out of favor, many are looking into alternative energy sources to help us power our lives with a smaller impact on the environment. You already know about solar power and wind energy, and hydro-electric power and nuclear power have been around for decades. But scientists are increasingly looking to the natural world for additional solutions.

Here are 5 alternative energy sources that you may hearing more of soon:

Helioculture: The idea is to create hydrocarbons with a little help from the sun. Brackish water is combined with photosynthetic organisms, nutrients and carbon dioxide and left in the sun. This process results in hydrocarbons that are ready for use a fuel -- not refining necessary.

Sewage: Our waste can...reduce waste. Using microbial fuel cells, sewage can be used in bio-electrochemical systems to create power. In fact, Norway has plans to begin using human waste to power the buses in Oslo.

Evaporation: Apparently, scientists are working on ways to harness the difference in electrical properties that exist between air and water. In order to make this work, a special kind of "leaf" is micro-fabricated. Air bubbles are pumped in, and as the water evaporates, the power is captured. Although it does seem like a lot of work for what might not be too much power...

Human movement: Could the expanding planetary population actually power itself through movement? There are thoughts that piezoelectricity could be generated with the use of special tiles placed in strategic places where people walk. These tiles would be made out of materials that generate energy in response to mechanical stress applied on them. As people walked to the bus, or jogged in the park, their pressure on these tiles could produce power.

Moon: For some time, scientists have considered ways to produce Helium-3, which is a non-radioactive possibility for mostly . However, creating He-3 on earth is a real pain. However, our near neighbor, the moon, has this light isotope in abundance. Could we see mines on the moon, working to tap into this source of possible energy? Maybe. One Russian company, RKK Energiya, thinks that moon mining for Helium-3 could be a possibility by 2020.

It is clear that we do need to start using our innovation to look for alternative sources of energy. It will be interesting to see which (if any) of these actually become viable.

Explore further: Indonesia passes law to tap volcano power

More information: Mother Nature Network: www.mnn.com/earth-matters/ener… -never-heard-3#image

Related Stories

Do the benefits of renewable energy sources stack up?

Aug 13, 2007

Do the overall efficiencies of renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar, and geothermal add up in terms of their complete life cycle from materials sourcing, manufacture, running, and decommissioning? Researchers in ...

Energy-efficient water purification

Jan 14, 2009

Water and energy are two resources on which modern society depends. As demands for these increase, researchers look to alternative technologies that promise both sustainability and reduced environmental impact. Engineered ...

Desert power: A solar renaissance

Apr 01, 2008

What does the future hold for solar power? “Geotimes” magazine looks into more efficient ways of turning the sun’s power into electricity in its April cover story, “Desert Power: A Solar Renaissance.”

Engineer aims to regulate varying wind power

Oct 19, 2007

As Texas' electric grid operator prepares to add power lines for carrying future wind-generated energy, an electrical engineer at The University of Texas at Austin is developing improved methods for determining ...

Recommended for you

Indonesia passes law to tap volcano power

17 hours ago

The Indonesian parliament on Tuesday passed a long-awaited law to bolster the geothermal energy industry and tap the power of the vast archipelago's scores of volcanoes.

Expert calls for nuke plant closure (Update)

Aug 25, 2014

A senior federal nuclear expert is urging regulators to shut down California's last operating nuclear plant until they can determine whether the facility's twin reactors can withstand powerful shaking from ...

Image: Testing electric propulsion

Aug 20, 2014

On Aug. 19, National Aviation Day, a lot of people are reflecting on how far aviation has come in the last century. Could this be the future – a plane with many electric motors that can hover like a helicopter ...

Where's the real value in Tesla's patent pledge?

Aug 20, 2014

With the much-anticipated arrival next month of electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla's Model S to Australian shores, it's a good time to revisit Tesla's pledge to freely share patents. ...

User comments : 17

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

3.5 / 5 (2) Feb 04, 2010
I'd be curious how much energy could be generated if we designed "piezoelectric stairs" for busy subway stations.

Several countries talk about beaming solar energy from space-based arrays. Could we convert Helium-3 into energy and beam it from the moon to the earth? Would save a lot of transportation costs
2.8 / 5 (4) Feb 04, 2010
Norway has plans to begin using human waste to power the buses in Oslo.

I can hear it now...(translated into English)
Nick - "I am out of fuel"
Kjell - "Well CRAP!"
Nick - "I'm out of that too!!!"
1.8 / 5 (12) Feb 04, 2010
As fossil fuels increasingly fall out of favor...

With WHOM, pray tell? Socialist retreads with pockets full of cooked data don't really count, do they?

Why don't we leave politics to politicians and focus on the science.
2.5 / 5 (4) Feb 04, 2010
how about piezoelectric solar panels which are activated by photoswitches? or nikola tesla's plans for ionospheric energy?
4.5 / 5 (4) Feb 04, 2010
and what exaclty is a "piezoelectric solar panels "??? -- a devices that generates energy by the movemnet of what??
Feb 04, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
4.7 / 5 (6) Feb 04, 2010
JSCROFT - even if fossil fuels caused climate change proves to be not true, we still have to find alternative solution, because at this rate, our oil reserves wont last more than one century. (in the best case).
3 / 5 (1) Feb 04, 2010
I'm still waiting for someone to seriously start developing beta-voltaic cells to generate power using our nuclear wastes.
Feb 04, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
3 / 5 (1) Feb 04, 2010
etim, Betavoltaic technology needs more help from material science to make them more durable. Those excited electrons really break down the internal semiconductors of the device.

Also, the radioactive source needs to be incorporated into the device to prevent absorption of the beta energy. That means building the waste into the battery? Not sure how that could be done. Unless you have some ideas.
3.5 / 5 (2) Feb 04, 2010
what about hemp (cannabis sativa) if you look at the facts of what this weed can do, you will see just how stupid it is that we willfully ignore its benefits and dismiss it because of a government reinforced fallacy. it can be used as biodiesel
3.3 / 5 (3) Feb 05, 2010
Love solar, wind, but the only thing that can really scale right now is nuclear. There's a lot of options in thorium and other breeder technologies and we should go all out with them. This will buy us (a lot of) time to finally get fusion and hydrogen economies going.
3.5 / 5 (2) Feb 05, 2010
I wonder if piezoelectric pavements/stairs etc could help combat obesity too.
You need to use a tiny bit more energy with every step, would it add up to anything sizeable over the course of a day?
3 / 5 (2) Feb 06, 2010
How is Helium-3 a clean energy source? Are you talking about using it as a fuel source for fusion? If so, then isn't even that kind of fusion theoretical? I'm all for nuclear fusion research but isn't this jumping the gun a little?
5 / 5 (3) Feb 06, 2010
@jscroft, there are plenty of reports, from the Energy Information Administration (or Agency?) no less, who will back up statements that fossil fuels are becoming more scarce - and that we may be looking at only decades before we (our children or grandchildren) face serious consequences of those dwindling resources. Note that the fear isn't running out of fossil fuels, the concern is running out of CHEAP fossil fuels.... (Also note that the EIA was saying this during the Bush admin.)

Finally, I see nothing wrong with wanting energy independence, either from Big Oil or coal or nuclear fission. Why would you want to be dependent on Big Oil, or anyone else, for your energy? I'm assuming that you must be a conservative based on your comments so shouldn't you be screaming for (energy) independence too?
4 / 5 (2) Feb 07, 2010
Human movement ? Really we're not energetic enough beasts. Possibly it might illuminate our subways but above that... Also what was stated above about helium-3 fusion is not even tested anywhere (correct me if I'm wrong) not to say proven/useable technology.

Only one I see viable is sewage (be it from humans, pigs, cities throwing useable nutritients to rivers+pickup near/at sea).
This article was written 3am "last chance to do my promised x words" kind of thing ?
3.5 / 5 (2) Feb 08, 2010
Helium-3 fusion is extraordinarily powerful and non-polluting, it can release millions of times more energy than fossil fuels without neutron hazards. I think a better way of producing clean energy from Helium-3 is using aneutronic reactor.
4 / 5 (1) Feb 10, 2010
Suchros, there are nuclear fusion experiments in the US and Europe (and maybe one in China?) usings very small amounts of H3 that are successful, and also produce more energy in ONE reaction than an average fossil fuel power station does in two months.

Hydrogen-Lithium Compopund for vehicles/aircraft etc and Nuclear Fusion and Biogas (from sewage) for industry would get rid of our power problems.
3 / 5 (1) Feb 10, 2010
JSCROFT - even if fossil fuels caused climate change proves to be not true, we still have to find alternative solution, because at this rate, our oil reserves wont last more than one century. (in the best case).
Thorium nuclear anyone?