Self-Powered Structures

In addition to Vehicle-based designs for energy production and energy recovery, I have been sharing my earlier research with students looking for inspiration for their Senior, Eagle or Gold Award projects. This research has included solutions drawn from the Upena cast-net “Wave Farm” design and other alternative-energy power generation alternatives. In many ways, these are easier to adopt before the full maturity of alternate-energy production systems, as structures provide the support structure inherently in their construction, and can accept lower efficiency with the tradeoff of a greater surface area for wind or photovoltaic power generation systems.

SolidStateACMany designs apply almost identically for vehicles and structures, such as the Solid-State Air Conditioner mentioned in a blog post in 2012. Testing this idea included two simulated vehicles as well as a single larger module for use in structures, where removal of the accumulated atmospheric water vapor is simpler in a structural setting where heat sinks and evacuation pipes can be much larger than the vehicle frame allows.


Many designs, like the use of submerged photovoltaic panels In water features depends more on the availability of sufficient yard space for deployment, although the panel cooling will assist in overall power production as we tested during the Solar Seaweed project. Again, supports for fixed installation can be much more massy than free-floating alternatives, while the use of fixed polycrystalline panels allow for enhanced power conversion in comparison to the fringe thin film plastic cells afford, while the water can be used as an energy-storage mechanism for thermovoltaic and geothermal systems.


Surface treatments, like wind turbine designs, allow transfer of power directly from the structure itself, trading ease of application for more costly and difficult to install crystalline panels. Several examples using conductive adhesive filaments and distribution/collection grids applied between paint or spray-on material layers. Solar Shingle photovoltaic applications allow the use of adhesive thin-film applications or preformed crystalline cells in configurations like clay tile shingles or asphalt flat shingles applied atop a roof, with or without thermovoltaic energy recovery systems in the roofline.

Many common appliances in the home offer energy recovery opportunities and efficiencies, such as a coupling between heat-wasting (Refrigerators) and heat-producing (Ovens) appliances. The heat drawn from the refrigerator could be used to pre-heat the oven, while similar linkages could be integrated between the air-conditioner and water heater as well. Some technologies can even allow new capabilities not present in the “Home of Tomorrow” from 1960 – such as a bi-directional telepresence virtual portal transferring audio and visual data between two remote locations, or between an actual location and a digital space such as SecondLife.


I have set up many video teleconferencing (VTC) suites for my clients at Universities and Hospitals, which are simply similar technologies as the “Looking Glass” portal that was originally tested. This capability allows full-room bi-direction participation by individuals are remote locations, without the time and cost involved in travel for co-mutual sharing of the same meeting space.

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