As humanity is getting increasingly desperate for power sources, it's time to think outside the box, even if that means turning to methods that would previously have only been employed by supervillains. Who thinks outside the box more than they do? Sure, these potential power sources we're tapping into would normally be considered ridiculous, cartoony or just plain evil. But are they worse than coal?
#5. A Battery That Runs Off of Human Blood
After trying for years to perfect a way to get power from stealing people's souls and then, when that didn't work, their tears, mad scientists have finally settled on getting electricity from human blood.
Scientists at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have invented a battery that is strong, flexible and, yes, powered by blood. And it even looks like a curled up old scab!
We didn't have to resist the urge to eat it, because we were never that kid.
This is actually just the latest step in a series of batteries called bio-batteries. They can run off of a number of bodily fluids, like sweat, urine or -- ah, there it is -- tears. So they can get power from all of the bodily fluids humans release in response to extreme terror. It's really a fear-powered battery, we guess. Hey, Monsters, Inc. was real!
Oh, also, it has to be implanted under the skin to work.
Even if it looks like a hunk of charred skin from a hot dog, it's actually an amazingly advanced little device. It has the texture of paper, but it draws electrolytes from your fluids and channels them through nanotech carbon tubes to create a usable energy supply.
Still, it's cooler than the alternative, which uses blood-feeding yeast.
The goal is not, apparently, to make a huge one and power it with a lake of blood from conquered human victims, but rather to help power medical implants. The papery nature of the batteries means they could be printed in sheets and easily cut to the size and shape needed for the patient. Then, once the thing is drawing juice from your natural fluids, you don't have to worry about changing the battery. It also seems like you could replace the mat in a UFC ring with this stuff and power the whole stadium with the sweat and blood from fighters, but we haven't heard of any prototypes for that yet.
Apparently broken teeth short circuit the whole thing.
By the way, as creepy as this seems, it's still less hardcore than the old way of powering devices like pacemakers: they used to use nuclear power. They would have a little hunk of plutonium inside the battery, and as it decayed, it released enough heat to power the device. Whenever a patient passed away, they'd have to ship her freaking pacemaker to Los Alamos to safely dispose of the nuclear material inside.
"Should you worry about the radioactivity? I wouldn't say so. Not with a heart like that."
#4. Harvesting Human Body Heat
Whatever else you may think about The Matrix, you have to admit there weren't all that many useful lessons to be learned (too many of us have found out that dodging bullets is WAY harder than the movie makes it look, for instance). But in Sweden, a group of engineers watched it and said, "Hey, that's right! We should harvest human body heat for our own needs! Thanks, movie!"
Turns out dystopian sci-fi is just an elaborate instruction booklet.
They don't need to round up crowds of people and shove them into a power plant, however -- the people do it themselves. The Stockholm Central Station is a huge train station that acts as a hub for travel all over Sweden, and some 250,000 people pass through it every single day. And, as we learned from The Matrix, the human body generates about 400 BTUs of heat an hour, or 117 watts.
Multiply that by a quarter of a million people and you have a building that stays hot -- too hot -- even in frigid Stockholm.
The lights are powered by smug passengers who got on the train you just missed.
So instead of just opening a window and wasting all of that energy, they installed heat converters in the ventilation system that would suck all of that extra body heat from the air, use it to heat water, and then send it across the street to heat an office building. We're assuming you can't just pump the air directly over there because it would smell like sweaty train travelers and Swedish hobos.
It worked; it wound up knocking 25 percent off the other building's heating bill. The best part? There's no reason that this method couldn't be used elsewhere. Energy costs are soaring, and it's not like our cities are short on packed buildings full of moving crowds.
Although when we start taking photos of these places, we often get our bags searched for explosives.
Maybe you could even hire unemployed people to sit in a small container, or "pod" if you will, and just provide free energy. Of course you wouldn't want them to get bored, so you could provide them with some VR entertainment. You could even get robots to guard them and make sure they don't leave.
And then just, like, cover them with goo. No reason.
#3. Volcano Power
No supervillain is complete without his volcano super base, where he hides from the law while harnessing energy to fuel his death ray. Volcanoes have thus become the symbol of supervillains from Sauron to L. Ron Hubbard.
But it turns out that the volcano base, even one carved into the shape of a skull, is a really smart idea when it comes to power generation. Most power plants today operate by heating up water and making steam. Well, hell, if it's heat that you need, why not go to a giant hole spewing molten rock from the center of the Earth?
How can we make the fires of hell work for us?
Green energy claims are notoriously inflated, but even by modest projections, it's estimated that the United States could power 25 percent of the country using just this method. And for volcanic-activity-heavy places like Indonesia where 35 percent of the population lacks electricity, this could be a godsend. That's why they are harnessing their volcanoes to produce 4,000 megawatts (or if you prefer, "four shitloads") of power by 2014. To put that in context, the world's largest solar plant produces just 400 megawatts a year, and the largest wind plant clocks in at a measly 800 megawatts.
What the hell is wind good for, if not to harness it like a God?
Iceland managed to provide power to 95 percent of their population using this method, and this method alone, and they have plans to start selling power garnered from volcanoes to other countries. These guys are taking the same volcanoes that screwed up everyone's air travel just months ago and making them work for us instead of against us.
Another problem caused by wind. Screw you, wind.
Of course, it wouldn't be a good supervillain plan if there wasn't some risk. Power has been interrupted before when the volcanoes they were trying to tap into erupted, which volcanoes are apt to do. And even when it's not exploding in your face, there are still risks, like drilling into the ground and releasing a cloud of super-heated steam that makes your equipment explode and forms a crater 100 feet deep and 100 feet wide (yes, it's happened a few times). But you're trying to subdue a freaking volcano and make it your servant here, it's going to fight back.
First we tamed the lightning, now we take on the volcanoes, then we blow up the sun.