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Body Heat From Your Seat Can Juice Your Laptop

Swedish designer Eddi Tornberg’s desk pulls power from a number of different sources — a plant, a piezoelectric pad that responds to the pressure of fidgeting, and from the body heat of the person sitting in the chair. Tornberg’s idea was to connect sustainable design and energy with day-to-day life, he says: The energy is [...]

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Eddi Tornberg’s self-powering desk. Photo: Eddi Tornberg

Swedish designer Eddi Tornberg’s desk pulls power from a number of different sources — a plant, a piezoelectric pad that responds to the pressure of fidgeting, and from the body heat of the person sitting in the chair.

Tornberg’s idea was to connect sustainable design and energy with day-to-day life, he says:

The energy is generated through the pressure of the person walking on the carpet, through the body heat of the person sitting on the chair, through the plants natural acids and sugars, and through the heat from the electronics on the desk. The concept thereby moves sustainable design from the realm of demand and effort and makes it into something tailored to our everyday existence.

Atlantic Cities explains how the body heat trick works:

The “Seebeck Effect”: In 1821, German-Estonian physicist Thomas Seebeck found that if you make certain materials warm on one side and cool on the other, the temperature differential generates electricity. The metal seat of this desk’s chair gets hot by cozying up to a worker’s butt, while the bottom remains chill thanks to a pattern of metal fins. The result: a few extra minutes of laptop life.

This system may not channel enough power yet to eliminate the need for a traditional power cord, but it’s the sort of technology that could reduce the world’s energy consumption bit by bit. Or at least, it’ll help those among us who have high body temperatures or who are particularly fidgety.

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About Sarah Laskow
Sarah Laskow

Sarah Laskow is a Brooklyn-based writer and editor of Smart News. Her work has appeared in print and online for Grist, GOODSalon, The American Prospect, Newsweek, New York among other publications.

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