Kinetic energy is not something we talk about a lot, but it is one of the most exciting technologies coming to market and potential solution to the world's over-reliance on legacy sources of energy such as fossil fuel. So why is it so important? Simply put, kinetic energy is all around us and if harnessed correctly, it could become one of the most important sources of clean energy we have at our disposal and an important weapon in helping fight climate change.
What is kinetic energy?
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In short, it is the energy of motion. When you move your body or a physical object, you are doing so with kinetic energy. A person walking, a ball being kicked or even an item falling from a table all possess kinetic energy – it is the force that is propelling them forward. You can even work out the amount of kinetic energy in joules using a simple equation, which I won't bore you with here, but what this means is that every individual and object have the potential to produce kinetic energy.
This is why I am talking about kinetic energy with such a passion – because it has such amazing potential – we just need to change our behaviours to tap into this technology and ensure there is a planet Earth left in all our futures.
Why is it so important?
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With 67 countries and eight US states working towards carbon net neutral targets, clean energy solutions need to be identified and implemented as soon as possible.
In tandem, as set out by the World Economic Forum way back in 2017, many countries are also working to reduce the number of petrol and diesel cars in use by 2040 at the latest, although some countries such as UK and Norway look to achieve that by at least 2035.
This is where kinetic energy comes into the equation. Most self-charging hybrid electric vehicles are based on kinetic energy. Have you ever booked an Uber and rode in one of the world's most popular self-charging hybrids – the Toyota Prius? Well if you have, you have been in a car that is powered by kinetic energy. Every time the car breaks, kinetic energy is produced which is stored in the cars batteries and then reused to help drive the car forward. So, it makes sense that as we slowly wean the planet off of its reliance on fossil fuels, particularly to power the many, many, many cars on the road, kinetic energy capabilities offer the perfect 'clean energy' solution. In fact, as of 2020, Uber insists that every one of its London drivers needs to drive a fully electric or petrol/electric hybrid car.
Where else can kinetic energy be used?
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But of course, this technology doesn't come cheap and, right now, electric cars are not something we can all afford. But there are many ways in which we can all harness and use kinetic energy in our day to day lives. Take your phone for example, you charge it every day, right? Well, swap your phone charger for a kinetic charger. There are some which are powered by a hand crank and others powered by a battery that is charged by a sensor in your trainers as you run. These are just some of the examples of products already available, but a wider variety of devices will soon hit the market that will help charge all of your most important devices – from your phone to your computer and most devices in between.
But aside from the obvious solutions, there are a handful of other technologies to take advantage of. One of my favourites is the self-charging floor, a technology that is already at work in Las Vegas, lighting up a handful of 'the strips' streets. But imagine applying this technology to your office space where workers are constantly walking back and forth between their desks and meeting rooms. One company, called Energy Floors, is hoping to achieve just that and are beginning to design kinetic installations for spaces of all sizes.
Of course, businesses are not going to switch to 100 per cent kinetic energy soon, but products such as the Flywheel Batteries will help businesses create and store kinetic energy locally. Flywheel storage facilities make use of a flywheel system that constantly accelerates and decelerates a rotor in order to store kinetic energy.
How will the future with kinetic energy look like?
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There are also a handful of start-ups harnessing energy in different and unique ways. Kite Power Systems is looking to harness the power of kites by floating them high up in the sky where there are far more power wind speeds. The movement of the kites in the wind turns a turbine which, in turn (pun totally intended), generates clean energy. American Wind has invented the world's smallest wind turbine – one that can generate almost 1,000 times more than a solar panel. That's quite impressive for something no bigger than a 30 cm cube.
Finally, there is Constructis, an innovative new energy start-up that wants to use its technology to collect kinetic energy from every vehicle on the road by capturing energy as they drive over it. Think of it as an energy harvesting speed bump.
When it all comes down to it, we all have a responsibility to do more to change how we source and consume energy so that we become less reliant on less green energy solutions. There is no doubt that we are only at the start of the journey towards to a kinetically powered future, but when we get there I have a feeling it will be a very bright future.