Very Alternative: 5 Unusual Alternative Energy Sources

alternative fuel

Solar and wind energy seem to get most of the attention from alternative-energy supporters, but there are plenty of other alternative fuel sources being explored. Some of them are entirely possible, some of them are dangerous or impractical, and some are downright silly. These five unusual alternative fuel sources are just a few of the possibilities currently in development.

Tornadoes

tornado

(image via: Iwa519)

Tornadoes are usually seen as very destructive forces, but one Canadian engineer believes that we can one day harness the power of the tornado to power entire cities. Louis Michaud believes that by pumping warm, humid air into his Atmospheric Vortex Engine (AVE), a chamber 200 meters wide with 100 meter tall walls, he can create an artificial tornado. The rotation of the tornado would then power wind turbines at the chamber inlets, creating enough electricity to power a small town. Michaud proposes using waste heat from power plants since they typically reject more than half of the heat they generate. He admits that the tornado would probably cause some extra precipitation in the surrounding area, but says that the whole setup would be inherently safe.

Dead Bodies

cemetery

(image via: left-hand)

At least one UK crematorium is using the gases released from the cremation process to warm the mourners in attendance. While it may seem morbid, it’s actually an eco-friendly use of an energy source that is currently wasted. A lot of talk has been flying around about environmentally friendly burials, so why not extend that environmental consideration to cremations as well? The energy inherent in cremated bodies is already being captured in a way, since it has to pass through filters to remove the mercury in the deceased’s fillings. The only change would be pumping that energy into the building’s heating system rather than allowing it to escape.

Dancing Bodies

When was the last time you made the world a better place by clubbing all night? Sustainable Dance Club was formed in the Netherlands with the idea that dancing bodies could create enough kinetic energy to actually power a building. Club WATT in Rotterdam was the first to install the Sustainable Dance Floor, but SDC is looking forward to taking their technology all over the world to other clubs, festivals, and wherever there are people willing to dance for the good of the Earth. They hope to spread the knowledge that living a greener lifestyle isn’t all about sacrificing the things you love.

Chocolate

chocolate fueled race car

(images via: Science Daily and eszter)

This racing car isn’t remarkable only because of how it’s fueled – it’s also made entirely from sustainable materials. The body is made from recycled carbon fiber, recycled resin and woven flax, the steering wheel is made of carrot pulp, and it’s lubricated with plant oils. The car is fueled solely with biofuel made from a mixture of chocolate and animal oils. Biofuel has been around for a long time, but it hasn’t been seriously considered as a long-term fuel source until the last decade or so. While it may not be ready to power entire cities just yet, biofuel is currently being used in plenty of vehicles, either as an additive or as a sole source of fuel.

Ancient Mudstones

mudstone

(image via: Andreas-photography)

300 million-year-old mudstones could one day reduce our dependence on conventionally-obtained fossil fuels, according to researchers at the University of Leicester. Shale gas can be found in the stones, much as it’s been found in sandstone for many years. But mudstone yields up to four times as much gas as sandstone. However, extracting the gas from the stones could be challenging since the stones aren’t consistent in their gas retention.

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