With the development of materials that can harvest kinetic energy, we've seen designers come up with intriguing ideas like highways and malls that convert the energy of cars and shoppers into electricity; chargers that use the vibrations of home appliances to power up devices -- the list goes on.
Taking the free, clean energy principle to furniture, Swedish design student Eddi Törnberg's "Unplugged" desk harvests the energy we use to do our daily tasks of sitting and walking, and converts this into electricity that can power our gadgets.
Instead of asking for a monumental shift in our society, Törnberg's concept starts realistically with what we already have -- and it may be a good idea, especially in our sedentary culture where we are obliged to sit during most of the day.
The point of Törnberg's ensemble is to ensure that all this sitting and paper-pushing doesn't go to waste, via the various ways that the desk is set up to gather all that free energy:
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.
Appropriately enough, Törnberg's thesis project was inspired by a quote by Harriet Beecher Stowe which reads: "Human nature is above all things lazy." Lazy, of course, doesn't have to mean useless.
Made using wood and various components, the whole desk system is connected via a network of cables. Törnberg describes the design further:
So-called [piezoelectric] elements are woven into the carpet, which means that whoever walks on the carpet exposing the crystal in the elements to mechanical stress and the elements then emit energy.
The flower is a plant-microbial fuel cell, which means that the natural sugars and enzymes help to extract energy through photosynthesis.
The seat of the chair is based on the Seebeck effect, which means that the metal on the upper surface becomes warm, in this case from the body heat, while the underside is kept cold by metal fins. The difference between these temperatures emits energy.
Simple but brilliant, "Unplugged" sees our daily activities as part of a system, a continuum that can also be easily cycled to feed something else, rather than wasted. It presents a neat solution to our energy problem that is practical and above all, could be more adaptable on a wide scale than most.