Ryan Jongwoo Choi is an inventor that may have made a revolutionary discovery — a miniature device that generates electricity. More or less, it uses the power of flowing water to generate and store a small amount of electrical energy. Now, while that may not sound like a new idea, it is the implementation that sets the idea apart from most others.
Basically, small waterwheels are placed inside of the pipes of a typical home plumbing system, and this creates energy that is then transferred to batteries. These in turn, power two mobile light bulbs. This is about as far as Choi has taken his idea to this point. While this may not seem like much, it is a step and an experiment that will lead to even greater discoveries.
Choi's idea came to fruition so that it could be used within African homes in isolated villages. These homes benefit from the mobile bulbs as a colonial home may have used a lantern. The experiment has been successful and therefore has many people thinking about other uses and other ways to make this happen. This was done in only one small pipe in a normal household that uses a normal amount of water.
If the idea was expanded upon, there is no telling what could happen — A normal city that has a normal network of water mains could use this system to harness the power of the running water.
However, in a standard water main, pressure and flow is certainly not the same at different times of day/week.
If a city were to combine both their current power source and supplement that supply with a system such as the one that Choi has devised, then the current power source would use much less. (Similar to how hybrid cars operate) How much less is not really known. Many cities have actually tried to supplement wind in certain areas, thinking that this would boost the process entirely. But a citywide system combining both intrinsic and standard sources has not been done up to this point.
There is a great deal of opposition to such systems and this is mainly backboned by legislation that comes from politics closely connected to the current power companies. The real changes will occur once power sources begin to fail and no other options can be considered. However, while this sounds fairly negative, the best is yet to come.
In most cities there is a preexisting setup between power companies and homes that use solar power. Solar power is not perfect, there are times of year and sometimes times of day when the solar energy is not enough to power a home 24 hours a day. There are also times when the power generated by the solar system is much greater than that household uses. The system in place allows the house to use power from the power grid when needed and subsequently to actually add its extra power to the city. This means that some months the household gets an electric bill and other months the city actually pays the household money for the extra power that was generated.
If this type of system can be extended to all types of alternative power, then a system like Choi's, fully expanded throughout a house, may actually be a form of energy that helps the household a great deal.
What we should take from Choi's endeavors is that in our efforts to utilize alternative energies, we're certainly moving in a positive direction. Rather than to simply coexist with an environment that is slowly failing, Choi has put effort into a solution and succeeded.
This is how the future needs to be handled. Pollution is rampant, resources are failing and the world keeps going as though it does not matter. Choi and others like him are looking at today as part of the future and at tomorrow as a goal that must be fought for. There has to be a change or two made for things to continue to function in the manner with which we have all become accustomed. The only way to ensure that we will have a bright future is to try to make a better day today.
Erik Braunitzer is a member of the creative writing and web strategy department for Douglas Elliman. With a background in philosophy and environmental literature, he's touched on topics varying from sustainability to green infrastructure.