Harnessing Excess Energy

The Stirling engine continues to fascinate me.

Mostly I’m taken with the puzzle of how to make use of all the excess energy that we generate on a daily basis.

My work primarily focuses on designs for low resource environments. However, I happen to live in an environment that has (over)abundant resources. Personally, I don’t think it will be this way forever, and I suspect thinking creatively about how to make effective use of excess energy that is currently wasted would be a good thing.

We have things like Stirling engines and Peltiers that can generate electricity from temperature differentials. So, why not figure out a way to make use of the all the excess heat that we generate in the course of everyday life? Why isn’t every dryer vent or refrigerator outfitted with small scale components that take the heat produced and turn it into something usable?  If we really lived like resources were dear and needed to be conserved, I suspect we could be much more thorough in capturing the bits and pieces of energy that are leaked all over the place.

I understand that it’s a matter of cost and benefit. And it’s probably not financially sensible to recapture energy when getting the new stuff is so cheap. But what happens when that equation flips? Wouldn’t it make sense to be starting to hack together some ways to reuse the eddies of energy that flow around us as we power through those resources each day?

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