Future of Energy Future of Energy

Meet Eight Young Energy Innovators With Ingenious Ideas

From community “solar gardens” to energy pellets made from coffee grounds to a phone-charging device that you plug into soil

David Amster-Olszewski, founder of SunShare, at one of the "solar gardens" his company built in Colorado (Helen Richardson, Denver Post)
smithsonianmag.com

Inspiration can come from the oddest places. As often as not, the spark may occur during an otherwise mundane moment. But the difference between the truly inventive and the rest of us is that is that inventors zero in on something they've noticed and we don't give that something a second thought.

So it is with these eight young innovators. One man's business was inspired by a comment from his mother. Another developed his great idea after staring into a cup of day-old coffee, a third while standing next to a racetrack, still another while watching how fish swim in a school. Then there are the three Chilean women whose "Aha!" moment came when all of their cell phones ran out of juice. 

Sanwal Muneer: Capturing Traffic Turbulence

(Sanwal Muneer, Capture Mobility)

For Sanwal Muneer, the moment of inspiration came a few years ago when he was standing by a racetrack in Malaysia, and he felt the wind from the cars speeding by.

That made him think there might be something in the movement of vehicles he could tap into. Soon that thought evolved into a startup called Capture Mobility.

Its product is a helical turbine that’s placed in median strips or along highways where it captures wind and turbulence from passing vehicles and turns it into energy. Plus, there are small solar panels on the device. And, it’s equipped with removable filters that help clear some of the pollution from passing traffic.

It might not seem like one of these turbines could generate that much energy, but Muneer, 23, says that once its battery is fully charged, it can hold one kilowatt of power, or enough to run two lamps and a fan for 40 hours.

He thinks the device one day might be used as a source of electricity for rural communities in developing countries. In urban areas, it could power traffic lights or road signs.

The company moved from Pakistan to Scotland last year, and its first turbine is now being tested along a road in Dundee.

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