6 bizarre sources of renewable energy from around the world

white granulated sugar and refined sugar on a gray background

For decades now, scientists from all over the world have been researching alternative energy solutions. But while there’s plenty of ongoing research into renewables such as solar and wind energy, a smaller group of experts are exploring more unusual options. The search for abundant, cheap energy is a constant one, and has led to some pretty surprising, strange and even ridiculous discoveries.

Following on from our first article that featured 8 of the strangest renewable energy sources you’ve never heard of, we take a look at some of the latest, remarkable solutions to our growing energy needs from around the world.



Scientists at Virginia Tech University are developing a way to convert sugar into hydrogen, which can be used in a fuel cell, providing a cheaper, cleaner, pollutant-free and odourless drive.

The method involves combining plant sugars, water and 13 powerful enzymes in a reactor, converting the concoction into hydrogen and trace amounts of carbon dioxide. The hydrogen could then be captured and pumped through a fuel cell to produce energy, a process which delivers three times more hydrogen than traditional methods. This would save money for drivers the world over.

Research is also underway to develop the same technology to create long-lasting sugar-based batteries for laptops, cell phones and other electronics, although it could be another ten years before we begin to see any results from these experiments.



The hundreds and thousands of metric tonnes of dried sludge that cities produce annually has the potential to generate a substantial amount of kilowatt-hours of electricity per day.

Sludge can be dried to make it burnable for a gasification process that creates electricity. The processing machine would turn gooey sludge into powder by using relatively low temperatures in a fluidised bed of sand and salts to produce the biomass fuel.

Although the research is still ongoing, estimates show that a full-scale system could potentially generate millions of kilowatt-hours of sustainable, cheap and efficient energy per day!



The world is full of bacteria who, like every living organism, have a survival plan for when food is in short supply. E. coli bacteria store fuel in the form of fatty acids that resembles polyester; the same fatty acid is needed for the production of biodiesel fuel.

Scientists are (conducting) tests into how these E. coli microorganisms can be genetically modified to overproduce those polyester-like acids and create a type of diesel fuel.

Biodiesel production is not a new concept, and has been a reality for quite a while now. The natural activity of bacteria, however, is a lesser explored means of creating the fuel, and one that holds potential for a new and efficient means of energy production.


Leftover food

From Biofuel we move on to another form of natural fuel. Biogas, in this instance made by the degradation of leftover food, is a sustainable and affordable way of generating energy. Organic matter, such as fruit skins or coffee, can be used to naturally obtain biogas through the process of bacteria.

A number of small industries are already making use of this innovative energy solution, and it could see the vast amount of rubbish produced daily in cities, transformed into renewable power.


Sound waves

Researchers are trying to harness the vibrational waves that sound can generate into electricity by using wires and electrodes.

At the moment, the energy that can be produced by these waves is small, but scientists are looking into the possibilities of charging small electronic devices such as mobile phones or clocks.

The video below gives more information on this process.




Throughout the day, human bodies produce energy in many different forms. One particularly unexpected way is through breathing. The AIRE mask is able to harness the wind power created by your breathing and converts it into electricity to run anything from your iPod to your mobile phone.

You can also use your internal energy to feed your pacemaker and other small medical devices through your heartbeat and muscle spasms.

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