The Most Sustainable Power Source on Earth

A human powered student room. Image: Golnar Abbasi.

  • A human can generate at least as much power as a 1m2 solar panel on a sunny day.
  • Unlike solar and wind energy, human power is always available, no matter the season or time of day. There’s little need for energy storage.
  • Unlike fossil fuels, human power can be a clean power source.
  • Unlike solar panels, wind turbines, and batteries, humans don’t need to be manufactured in a factory.
  • Unlike all other power sources, human power increases as the human population grows.
  • Human power is an all-round power source. Humans not only supply muscle power that can be converted into mechanical energy or electricity, they also produce thermal energy, especially during exercise. Finally, human waste can be converted to biogas and fertiliser.

Human power is the most sustainable power source on Earth.

Quoted from Human Power Plant, a work-in-progress by Low-tech Magazine and Melle Smets. More about the project later.

Human Powered 3D Printer

human-powered-3d-printer

The Trophy is a 3D Print Machine, consisting of an Ultimaker 3D printer and a stationary bicycle to power it. Pierre-Clement Niviere designed it to make people aware of the high energy consumption of printing a 3D-object, criticising a technology that’s usually presented as an environmentally friendly way of production. The set-up also involves the maker in the creation process, raising questions about how 3D printing is changing making.

See it in action. Previously: Mechanical 3D-printer. Thanks to Pim Rooymans.

Vertical Walking

vertical-walking-stairs“Even as our cities get more crowded and its buildings get taller, it seems that we have yet to find a more energy efficient way to navigate this high-rise environment. Right now, our options are limited to stairs, escalators, and elevators—all of which are expensive, require constant maintenance, and take up a lot of space.

Enter Rombout Labs and their concept of “vertical walking.” Their technology is designed to allow humans to move between building floors without the need for any sort of power supply, also using less effort than we would if we were using stairs, and making optimal use of available vertical space.

“By using harmonious movements and smart materials, only 10% of the effort of walking stairs is needed to bridge multiple floors. This not only provides a solution for the growing number of people who are unable to take stairs, but moreover offers new possibilities for urban architecture,” they explain on the Dutch Design Week website, where the system is currently featured.”

See & read more: New Futuristic Prototype Replaces Stairs and Elevators for ‘Vertical Walking’.

Human Powered Level Luffing Crane

level luffing lever crane 1870

“An French illustration from 1870 shows us the unusual ways in which hand-driving lifting devices were used in the period. Push carts almost two metres long were lifted to 9.2 metres by hand cranks via an 11.5 metre long luffing lever, also operated by a worker, and then pushed further along a wooden path to a tipping point. This daring construction was almost 18 metres tall.”

Find the complete illustration here. Source: “Portefeuille économique des machines, de l’outillage et du matériel“, December 1870, Bibliothèque nationale de France. Text: “The History of Cranes (The Classic Construction Series)“, Oliver Bachmann,1997.

Hand Crank Marble Machine

low-tech music“The Wintergartan Marble Machine, built by Swedish musician Martin Molin and filmed by Hannes Knutsson, is a hand-made music box that powers a kick drum, bass, vibraphone and other instruments using a hand crank and 2,000 marbles.”

Read more at Wired: Wintergatan’s ‘Marble Machine’ makes music with 2,000 marbles.

Knapp Double Wheel Generator

knapp double wheel generatorFound at Live Auctioneers. Description: “Painted cast iron original double wheel generator to provide the power to Knapp model trains and trolleys.  In talking to various collectors we feel this is the first Knapp toy train generator to have surfaced and it is in near perfect state. The top of the motor sports the Knapp name plate; this piece appears in the 1908 Knapp catalog 16″ l. , 12″ t.” [Read more…]

Human Powered Ferris Wheel

human-powered-ferris-wheel

You could power a ferris wheel with pedals and cranks — but these guys add gravity & guts to the power mix. The human powered ferris wheel. Picture credit: Dirty Wall Project. Thanks to Giuliana Fornaciari.

Pallets On Rails

pallets on rails

Tomáš Moravec modified a standard pallet to ride it on the tram tracks of Bratislava in Slovakia. Nothing beats the efficiency of a human powered vehicle on rails. Previously: Handcarts on rails. Thanks to Adriana Parra & Alice Prouvé.

 

Foot Powered Sieve and Bandsaw

The Archanes Project, a natural building collective from Greece, shows two interesting designs for foot-powered machines: a sieve and a bandsaw. 

“When George Chiletzakis told us that he wants to make a bandsaw, that will operate without electric power, at the beginning we all laughed. It seemed that this gave him bigger strength and inspiration to show us that he who laughs last, laughs best.”

Human Powered Pile Hammer

Check out this video of a human powered pile hammer in Thailand. Thanks to Arne.