Research/Energy Harvesting Motivation

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Why is energy harvesting an interesting topic for WdKA students?


General motivation for research in Design and Energy Harvesting is found in the current global complex problems around energy production and consumption. Energy production is depleting resources of the Earth and is destroying environments. Energy consumption is related to commercial global strategies and political power structures. Our conviction is that Energy Harvesting Principls incorporated in Design can make a difference in strategies to help solving these problems.

General Motivation

  • Energy availability

The general availability of Energy on the long term for everybody on Earth is questionable.
Although pessimistic views about the future are widespread and are proven wrong many times, the problem of keeping the energy comsumption on the current level seems real in relation to the exponential growth of world population. Given a reduced amount of available energy, the idea of "scraping", "scavenging", "harvesting" energy will be one of the topics of innovative technologies.

  • Energy and Climate change

The amount of energy the earth population is currently using can be called "big", because there is a relation between energy consumption over the last 100 years and climate change. Reducing energy used by future devices will hopefully accomodate or moderate future problems like predicted rising sea levels or other environmetal problems within the domain of the Earth heating up. Secondly, just finding new sources of energy cannot be the solution of scarcity of energy. Adding energy sources (like ideas to put mirrors for sunlight in Space) only aggravates the warming up of oceans and atmosphere. Energy consumption should be reduced by improving efficiency on all possible levels, like energy loss, recycling of energy, lowering energy consumption of current devices.
Reference: Environmental aspects

  • Energy and Democracy

Energy production and concumption is embedded within global commercial and political power structures. Therefore, gaining independency is making a contribution to the democratisation and empowerment. More specificly can energy harvesting make a difference for poeple living in area's which are not yet connected to the electrical network. Making people independent of global electricity networks can also be reducing the pressure to exploit the last natural resources of the Earth, rain forests, deserts, mountain ranges.
Reference: Energy and Democracy

  • Opportunities

Energy Harvesting is already an important innovative industry. It is connected both to idealistic views on making the world a better place to live as well as profitable commercial opportunities. Combination of these two aspects could revolutionize our society.
Reference: Innovativity

  • Design and Energy Harvesting

From technology to design: most of the current products and technology using energy harvesting is made by engineers and scientists. Making this technology part of design will increase user friendliness and user acceptance.
From design to technology: current design dependent on external electricity could gain independance by using self generated energy. Thus potential users outside the developed world could benefit.
Reference: design in science

WdKA specific Motivation

The motivation for a research on Design and Energy Harvesting can be found in the current curriculum of the bachelor KUO and Autonomous of the WdKA. Making the world a better place and innovative practices play a very important role within Design education in general. The bachelor students of the WdKA are taught to conceptualize projects in relation with current "real complex problems". The motivation for knowledge about energy harvesting concepts can be demonstrated most easily by showing the connections to this curriculum. The mentioned "complex problems" or themes of study are introduced in the so called "practices" (2/3 year) and play a main role during the minor (4th year). The themes of study are categorized in three domains:

  • autonomous practices
  • commercial practices
  • social practices

These 3 practices are subdivided as follows:

  • Autonomous Practice

Subdivisions: Critical Studies , Public & Private , Digital Craft , Hacking

  • Social Practice

Subdivisions: Cultural Diversity , Sustainability , Open Design , Gamification

  • Commercial Practice

Subdivisions: New Frontiers , Branding , Data Design , Service Design
Reference:Practice and Minor subjects

The subdivisions which could directly benefit from intuitions and knowledge about energy harvesting are:

  • Digital Craft

Prototyping could have as an added future challenge the constraint of energy harvesting. Experiment and playfulness are needed for acceptance of the constraints of energy harvesting. Several current projects can be found which could be examples.

  • Hacking

Hacking is amongst others a strategy for empowerment, using existing devices and make them energy independent would make a difference within existing political power structures.

  • Sustainability

Main topics: ‘New Ownership’, ‘Expanded value’, ‘The Future is Now!’, can all be related to energy harvesting. Making the world a better place by using resources more efficiently and consciously is at the heart of the possible benifits of energy harvesting.

  • Open Design

Energy Harvesting knowledge is typically knowledge that should be shared and open for further improvements by "the ordinary people".

  • Gamification

Within the research the game component has become clear: use small setups around energy harvesting to make the users more conscious about the energy they use. These small setups are mostly inefficient, but the consequences will be that in real life people will use energy more wisely, more efficently.

  • New Frontiers

New ideologies and new industries are directly related to the two topics mentioned above: democratisation, empowerment and innovation.

Example projects Design and Energy Harvesting, students


  • Energy Square by a student Bachelor Spatial Design (Bachelor final poject). A square with a swimming pool was studied on the possibilities of reducing the enormous energy consumption of this public swimming pool. Solar heating was studied and possibilities to recycle heat of the "used" water. The neighborhood was involved, by making use of rain water and solar power.
  • Another design concept of the same student Spatial Design (minor project): a pavilion with amongst other things a device based on a bicyle which could generate energy for powering WIFI. The goal of the pavilion was to make staying outside more enjoyable and purposeful for young people and so reducing damage by annoyance which could lead to crime and destruction of private and public property.
  • Pavilion powered by moss growing on the surrounding square. This is an example of the effects of Energy Harvesting Projects which fall within the category of "Potential Future Design". The Cambridge Moss Table suggests to power a lamp above a table by using the energy harvested from moss plants. Students copy these ideas without realizing that powering a lamp by moss plants is not (yet) possible.

Example projects Design and Energy Harvesting, professionals

  • Solly (Dutch Design week 2014 project). Solly is a game for children 6-8 years old. "Het solly systeem is hèt speel-leersysteem om jonge kinderen (6+) kennis te laten maken met groene energie. Het systeem bestaat uit verschillende speel-robots die ofwel energie opwekken ofwel gebruiken. Het Solly Systeem is een concept van Studio Roes."
  • Little Sun is a project where a solar cell is incorporated in a friendly designed casing which has the shape of a sun. The goal of the project is "getting clean, reliable, affordable light to the 1.2 billion people worldwide without access to electricity".