From Fred Flintstone’s foot-powered car to the Starship Enterprise’s dilithium crystals, Americans have a rich history of imagining alternative fuel sources for petroleum-free worlds.
But what may have seemed like science fiction just two decades ago — think dance floors that produce energy and cars that run on chocolate — is quickly becoming reality.
To be sure, not all of these technologies will make it out of the laboratory, and many are decades away from achieving mainstream adoption. Yet with growing concern about climate change and rising costs at the gas pump, more consumers are opting to think outside the box when it comes to powering their homes and cars.
“You can do lots of things in the lab, but the trick is turning it into a commercial scale that makes economic sense,” notes Greg Pahl, the author of “Biodiesel: Growing a New Energy Economy” and other books about renewable energy. “With the more speculative ones, it may take 20 to 25 years to bring something like that to full commercialization.”
Among the newer alternative fuel sources that are showing potential? Biomass energy, which relies on previously living organisms to create fuel, and wave energy, Pahl notes.
While some renewable energy sources are growing mainstream — such as solar photovoltaic panels, which can be found in 300,000 homes across the U.S. — these weird energy sources are either just gaining a foothold or are in the experimental stage.
Read on to learn more about unusual energy sources that just might change the world.