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Space Power Technology

Power Generating Spacesuits 145

Posted by samzenpus
from the the-electric-slide dept.
Maggie McKee writes "Piezoelectric sensors could help power future space missions. Astronauts' spacesuits may one day be covered in motion-sensitive proteins that could generate power from the astronauts' movement, according to futuristic research being conducted by a new lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts, US. Such 'power skins' could also be used to coat future human bases on Mars, where they could produce energy from the Martian wind. Eventually, the biologically derived suits might even be able to heal themselves."
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Power Generating Spacesuits

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @10:19PM (#18019498)
    Seeing you can't get energy for free, and you can't even break even, wouldn't this just add to the resistance one would need to overcome to move?
    • by Jeff Molby (906283) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @10:26PM (#18019540)
      Of course it would add resistance. Since we don't want their muscles atrophy, I would imagine the resistance is seen as a feature rather than a bug.
      • by ceoyoyo (59147) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @10:50PM (#18019700)
        Except that you don't really want them getting extra exercise while they're in their suits -- one of the big problems with space construction is that working in space suits is very tiring. The rest of the time it's not enough to exercise to prevent muscle atrophy... you also have to load your bones to prevent bone loss.
        • by Korin43 (881732)
          Make the astronauts inside wear the power suits, then connect them via power cord to the astronaut in the space suit? (I don't know if this defeats the purpose, but aren't astronauts already attached to the ship with a cable anyway?)
        • by bl8n8r (649187)
          I wonder what it's like to load a bone in space.
    • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

      by Adriax (746043)
      Exercise is a big thing in space, if they can keep the spacers in better shape and generate power at the same time, it's a good thing.
    • by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @11:14PM (#18019822)
      This means that the astronaut will have to work harder (consuming more fuel/oxygen, generating more waste heat that needs to be processed). A human working flat out is only good for a few hundred watts. In space that would be hard to achieve. Anyone who has tried doing hard physical work in weightlessness will tell you how difficult that is. I have not worked in space, but I have worked underwater which was pretty difficult.

      Sure this would give them a much needed work-out, but that is far better to do inside where there is better oxygen supply, waste heat/water processing etc.. Rather use an exercise bike driving a generator which is likely to be far more efficient.

      Basically this sounds far more like a solution looking for a problem that anything really useful.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mcrbids (148650)
        A human working flat out is only good for a few hundred watts.

        My thoughts exactly. The amount of power possible is just minute - enough to run a few LED lights and maybe a micro-radio. (and then only as long as you don't broadcast)

        Whoopie!

        It's like the guy who wanted to generate power from the falling water in his rain gutters....
    • by StarWreck (695075)
      Thats kind of a mute point. The protein layer would be so thin it wouldn't add resistance that any normal person would notice.
      • 1. Grammar nazi: moot, not mute

        2. Physics nazi: if a normal person wouldn't notice the resistance it isn't generating any useful power.
        • by StarWreck (695075)
          3. RTFA Nazi. They would generate nanowatts. Thats on top of them supposedly being 1,000 times more efficient than a traditional electrical generator.
          • by Fordiman (689627)
            "They would generate nanowatts."

            Per protein. But even at 100% efficiency, about a billion of 'em would only produce one watt, burning 0.86 calories per hour. And that's depending on how many are at a movement stress point.

            There are 7.5 hexillion (x 10^21) of these proteins in a gram of pure prestins(1 g / 80 amu = 7.5x10^21). If the entire gram is working at 100% efficiency, they are capable of producing 7.5x10^12 watts... huh?? 7 trillion watts? No, sorry. The math simply doesn't work out. I'd guess
    • by Fastolfe (1470)
      Not necessarily. They encounter resistance/friction today, from the existing layers of the suit. If you could incorporate this INTO those layers (not add additional layers), without changing the resistance provided by those layers, then instead of losing the energy from that resistance to heat, you could convert it to more useful power.
  • Power generating? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Stormx2 (1003260) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @10:20PM (#18019506)
    What? The suits are powered by the astronauts' movement, and that energy is provided by food? It's more conserving energy than anything. If we could somehow train our astronauts not to play golf on missions, we could save billions on R&D.

    Anyway, I just love the capitalisation of "Could" in mid-sentence.
    • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

      by Simon Garlick (104721)
      Since there's no hyphen between "power" and "generating", I can only conclude that some sort of POWER is spontaneously creating SPACESUITS.

      Either that, or the Slashdot editors are just illiterate.
  • by Nefarious Wheel (628136) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @10:24PM (#18019524) Journal
    ...I'm sure all they want is more of their own personal energy dumped into flexing their suits...
    • by TWX (665546)
      Yeah, I was thinking that. As long as their spacewalks can take, I'd want something that's power-assist, not power-robbing...
    • by gardyloo (512791) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @11:00PM (#18019748)
      Pfft. Lack of vision. Just put some motors at the suits' joints. Problem solved, right?

          Plus, that'd be kick-ass great for loading ships and fighting the occasional alien queen.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Brian Gordon (987471)
        Narrowminded. Just tie the motors right into the generators. Problem solved.
      • by smithmc (451373) *
        And then that will give them even more strength to use to make the suit generate even more energy... Holy crap guys, I think we're really on to something here.
    • by seriv (698799)
      NASA always does. Whenever NASA makes a change to the suit, they have former or current astronauts (I think former) test them out. Almost every modification they have made to the suit has been made because of some insight gained from past missions. It is not always clear what would cause trouble in the suits. In other words, its a given.
    • ...I'm sure all they want is more of their own personal energy dumped into flexing their suits...

      I think a PV panel would be a better choice. It would consume less oxygen in limited supply in the suit, produce less waste heat in the suit, and best of all, there is never a cloudy day, just a very infrequent eclipse.
    • by StarWreck (695075)
      I don't think they'll mind because the extra energy required to bend a microscopically thin layer of protein would not cause any noticeable extra strain or require any noticeable extra exertion. The astronaut could work for several hours with the protein suit and come back not feeling any more tired than with a standard suit.
  • by President_Camacho (1063384) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @10:24PM (#18019526) Homepage
    Astronauts' spacesuits may one day be covered in motion-sensitive proteins that could generate power from the astronauts' movement ... Such 'power skins' could also be used to coat future human bases on Mars, where they could produce energy from the Martian wind.

    But what about producting power from the Astronauts' wind?
  • Astronauts covered in proteins! that sounds like it could be a new pay website!
  • This was a technology that appeared in KSR's Mars Trilogy [wikipedia.org] . Wonder where he got it from? (It's not an unobvious idea -- we've had piezoelectric buzzers for many years, and running them in reverse can't be too crazy an idea.)
    • by fiannaFailMan (702447) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @10:35PM (#18019598) Journal

      Wonder where he got it from?
      The stillsuits in Frank Herbert's Dune?
    • I remember something from the 70s, don't remember if it was a patent or not, but it described a device shaped like a shoe innersole. The thing had pizeoelectric pads that turned the pressure from walking into heat to keep the wearer's feet warm during the winter. Never heard about it again, so I don't know if any were ever made, but the idea's been around for awhile.
      • You don't need a fancy device for that. Just use a piece of foam. Turning useful kinetic energy into worthless heat is one of the simplest things anyone can do.

        By far the best thing you can do to keep your feet warm though is make sure your shoes are appropriately sized. If you don't get enough circulation to the foot, it doesn't matter how well insulated your boot is, you're going to have chilly feet.
      • by joto (134244)

        The thing had pizeoelectric pads that turned the pressure from walking into heat to keep the wearer's feet warm during the winter.

        You don't need this when walking. It's when you stand still you start freezing on your feet. That's why you've never heard anything more of the idea. But if you want heated innersoles now, you can buy (or make yourself) one with batteries quite easily. 1/2 - 5 watts per shoe is enough, so a few AA-batteries will suffice. Unless your requirements are extreme (e.g. tight dancing

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @10:37PM (#18019612)
    "...Could ...may ... could .... could ... could .... might...."

    Every geek on /. could get laid this year, and womankind may decide that brilliance could be a more important attribute than charisma. We could end up seeing a world that could be different than it is. This might happen anytime now.
  • Why piezo-electric? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @10:39PM (#18019628) Journal
    Given that no machine has 100% efficiency, these generators cant produce more energy than what the astronauts muscles could deliver. So dont confuse these with generating power like in solar cells or nuclear reactors. But there is always need for electrical energy so they might come in handy. But why these piezo-electrics? I have seen WW-II era footage of soldiers ing tiny generators by hand or by legs to power their radio sets.

    The apocryphal story of NASA spending millions of dollars to invent a pressurized ball point pen that would work in zero gravity and USSR deciding to use a pencil comes to my mind.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      >The apocryphal story of NASA spending millions of dollars to invent a
      >pressurized ball point pen that would work in zero gravity and USSR
      >deciding to use a pencil comes to my mind.

      Every try sharpening a pencil in space? The bits of graphite and wood shavings floating around are quite annoying.
      • Electric pencil sharpener with a little vacuum action? A stash of presharpened pencils?
        • how about *drumroll* mechanical pencil! clicky-clicky and presto, you have more .05 or .07mm graphite to scribble away to your underworked and low-g hart's content.

          =)

          If they managed to store this energy in batteries, they could wear the suits indoors generating power for later use and thus avoiding that extra workout that others have complained about. I mean, since this is all vaporware sci-fi...

    • by SuperBanana (662181) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @11:32PM (#18019940)

      The apocryphal story of NASA spending millions of dollars to invent a pressurized ball point pen that would work in zero gravity and USSR deciding to use a pencil comes to my mind.

      The one that's a blatantly not true? I'm against space exploration for many reasons, but even I know this story is utter bullshit [snopes.com].

      1)Fisher developed the space pen without a dime from NASA, and sold them to NASA at a reasonable price.

      2)Both the US and USSR used pencils.

      3)Both stopped using them because the dust/filings/broken tips floating around were bad for people and equipment.

      Incidentally, I have a Fisher pen; it's the smallest one they make (I think), a two-piece unit where the cap flips around to make it a full-length pen. It's a great pocket pen; the ink seems to be quick-drying (left-handed people will appreciate this and know what I mean), not too pricey ($10 I think? Maybe $15?) small, always works, and with the cap off, it's a full-size writing implement and very sturdy when "assembled." Not like one of those cheesy telescoping jobbies that bend and are too thin to hold. An o-ring-like seal keeps the cap on firmly when stored and keeps the laundry detergent out (yes, proven more than once.)

      It's quick to whip out (cough) and always works, unlike half the pens at cashiers which a)can't be found and b)barely work. It also garners the occasional impressed comment. My only beef is that the clip came off after a month or so in my pocket- would have been nice if they had spot-welded it on instead of just press-fitting it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Eevee (535658)

      The apocryphal story of NASA spending millions of dollars to invent a pressurized ball point pen that would work in zero gravity and USSR deciding to use a pencil comes to my mind.

      apocryphal - Definition: Of questionable authenticity; spurious.

      I'm curious why you would use a story you know is fake [snopes.com] for support? Gutsy move admiting it, though.

      While it's true these can not produce more energy than the astronaut's muscles can produce, that isn't relevant for a lot of applications. For example, there ar

    • by evilviper (135110)

      But why these piezo-electrics?

      Why do questions get modded up, when they are already fully explained in the article?

      Efficiency: prestin may be 10,000 times more efficient at generating power than the best manmade material.

      Weight: minimising the weight of generators, batteries

      Maintenance: harness the ability of biological mechanisms to self-assemble.

      Now go sit in the corner and think about what you did.
    • by rm999 (775449)
      "I have seen WW-II era footage of soldiers ing tiny generators by hand or by legs to power their radio sets."

      It sounds like they are going for something that would require no additional effort from the astronauts. They have better things to do than rotate a generator in a huge spaceship that already has ample power (compared to a hand-cranked generator at least).
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Chris Mattern (191822)

        "I have seen WW-II era footage of soldiers ing tiny generators by hand or by legs to power their radio sets."

        It sounds like they are going for something that would require no additional effort from the astronauts.
        [snip]

        The problem is, they can't. You can't get something for nothing. If the suit generates electricity when the astronaut moves, then it will offer resistance to the astronaut's movement; that's basic conservation of energy. The question is, how *much* will it hamper the astronaut? If it's to

  • Energy is neither created nor destroyed. How can someone seriously think this is free energy? An astronauts energy comes from somewhere so the chain is biomass->digest(chemical process)->kinetic->electricity? Reminds me of the old question "you are in space with a chicken, some grain and an egg. What should you do?" A: Eat the chicken before it eats the grain, then make a grain omlette. On the counter side of my rant, this may solve the problem of astronaut musculas atrophy by making every mo
    • by scoot80 (1017822)
      and how do you suppose to make a grain omlette in space?
      • What I wonder is how they got the chicken in the space suit! As for cooking the omelette you make a solar oven (yes this does exist...backpackers use them)
        • by scoot80 (1017822)
          well the chicken would easily fit inside the helmet. Connect it to an air tank and seal up the helmet. But I guess, if you are going to eat the chicken, why not just put it in a plastic bag. Its cold up there, so it won't go off, and you don't need to keep it alive..
  • I say, hook a few of these systems up to buildings in Japan.

    All the flexing they'd do because of earthquakes you could dump some serious energy into the grid =O

    </totally illogical thinking>
    • by solitas (916005)
      ALWAYS take a 'newscientist.com' article with more than one grain of salt.

      If such a system is feasable, then WHY hasn't something been tried on Earth already? NS always puts a futuristic/space slant on things, well how about something like this being tried on Earth for, oh, say: hearing aid battery replacement (or some other low-power use)?

      Troubleshoot it, develop it, and demonstrate it here on Earth before even approaching the would/could/should of spacesuits.
  • T-1000 (Score:3, Funny)

    by SeaFox (739806) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @10:56PM (#18019724)

    Eventually, the biologically derived suits might even be able to heal themselves.

    Allowing them to continue their pursuit of John Connor despite multiple shotgun hits.
    • Or sealing automagically when an action hero shoots out the big glass windows protecting the citizens from Mars's hazardous atmosphere (total recall)
  • Eventually, the biologically derived suits might even be able to heal themselves."

    Think we can apply this technology to condoms ?
    • I think most condoms get their fair share of protein coatings as it is.
    • by boarsai (698361)

      Eventually, the biologically derived suits might even be able to heal themselves."
      Think we can apply this technology to condoms ?

      If your penis needs healing, you're probably DOING IT WRONG.

      Just a thought...

  • by edwardpickman (965122) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @11:01PM (#18019754)
    Wouldn't it make more sense to send up a female mudwrestler greased rather than covered in protein? Seems like more power would be generated and selling the videos could generate much needed cash.
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Wouldn't it make more sense to send up a female mudwrestler greased rather than covered in protein? Seems like more power would be generated and selling the videos could generate much needed cash.

      I'd think they'd get more viewers by covering her with protein in Zero-G.

  • Interstellar vapor (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Yurka (468420)
    The guy patented the molecule. The one we all have in our ears. And he patented it. Did I mention he's got the actual patent on it?

    Sorry, got carried away a little. So, this guy, who actually patented the naturally occurring protein which generates electricity in response to vibration, and so presumably knows what he's talking about, has no earthly clue how this power could be utilized. What is the article about then, exactly? Is it to draw attention to an interesting peculiarity of some organic compound? T
    • Yea, the article's about

      an interesting peculiarity of some organic compound

      and also writes about the prospects of using the electricity of that peculiarity.

      The CG's, the spaceships of which haven't been designed from what NASA publishes, go well in continuity with the theory that IntAct labs haven't actually designed even the basics of power pickups to the proteins. The article notes that as far as future application is concerned, it's going to be a challenge. I perceive that it'll be difficult, highly probable possible, to make something that's light

  • Surely an electricity generating material would be easy to sell to the keep-fit crowd, joggers could have their mp3 players charged by their tracksuit etc. - but you wouldn't see me dead in Apple iPod Shorts.
  • The amount of energy will come from the wearer. Which means more food and oxygen.
    It's likely more efficient to simply have a small fuel cell.

    That's the problem with many "new energy sources" they aren't really sources.
    • by Gorobei (127755)
      Exactly. The energy conversion efficiency of lungs+muscles is about 3% versus around 30% for an internal combustion engine (for fairly obvious reasons: much higher temp/pressure in engines means more efficiency, people are people not high efficiency energy->work convertors.)
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      That's the problem with many "new energy sources" they aren't really sources.

      Uh, if you remember back to say your high school physics, you might recall that energy is never created nor destroyed, and thus there is no such thing as a source of energy. It's all just conversion of energy from one form or another, to mass, or from mass.

      • by Sj0 (472011)
        Yes, but there are areas of high potential energy (just calling it that to avoid saying 'source') which lead to a net increase of energy in the system you care about. For example, solar panels might actually steal energy from the sun, which has less hydrogen to convert to helium as a result, but we don't care about the sun. It's got plenty of fuel, and there's no negative effect to leeching a bit that would have otherwise just flown off into space, so locally, it's an energy source. Using humans for energy,
  • ...and I carry the power supply with me at all times. Time to generate some power....*ahhhhhhhh* *grin*

  • I like the new suffix. It means that scientists look at every possible source to find their energy. Waste management.

    If this can be perfected, I can see an excellent future for protein energy harnessing/harvesting. Just on inspection, it seems like it could gather more and more at once than, say, steam. And without putting as much energy into it.
  • Is this something that may be practical in boats? Get not only trust but also electrical energy from sails? In addition is this something that could be used on the massive sails mentioned here on slashdot before as an addition to tankers to help cut down fuel use? If so this could be pretty freaking sweet when it advances.
    • by joto (134244)
      If you want electrical energy from wind, we already have something called a turbine that will do that. It could also be used to generate electrical energy from movement through water. I can't see how coating sails and/or fuselage with proteins would help that. The idea is that sails/fuselage should be optimal for generating movement in the direction you want, not for generating electricity.
  • by aibrahim (59031) <{moc.arenez} {ta} {liamhsals}> on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @11:49PM (#18020016) Homepage Journal
    There is a lot of complaining that this will make the suits harder to bend and a number of other non-sense.

    The point is that a lot of energy is already wasted by normal movement. It goes into things like crushing your shirt sleeves, friction, sound etc.

    You have to make the space suits out of something... it may as well be something that can recapture energy normally wasted in motion.

    Some have brought up the notion that these types of devices use more energy to make than they can capture. If it costs more energy to make the suits than they can generate... well that is irrelevant. The energy would be expended on Earth, so the mission gains some energy efficiency for "free." This becomes a consideration only if the suit has to be manufactured during the mission... perhaps as a replacement.

    Don't get me wrong... this is far from the primary way to get energy. Take the example from the article of using this to generate energy from the Martian wind. Instead we might use this "wind mill" technology. However, if you have wind buffeting a static structure, it makes some sense to capture some of that energy if (and that's a huge IF) you can do so just by changing the materials used on the exterior. It may make more sense to coat the windmills with this stuff, and build the shelters underground.
    • by Rakishi (759894)
      Given how damn thin the Martian atmosphere is you're likely to get a lot more power per mass (you need proteins, proper coating to keep them from degrading, power pickup systems, methods to replace them when they fail, etc.) by just taking an extra RTG with you. If the expedition is sane they'd have dragged a full nuclear power plant with them anyway so power would likely be the last of their worries. I mean they'd need some sort of massive generator as getting the molecules from Martian soil as is I think
    • by evilviper (135110)

      You have to make the space suits out of something... it may as well be something that can recapture energy normally wasted in motion.

      There is NO SUCH THING as "wasted energy". It always does SOMETHING. In the freezing vacuum of space, in particular, that heat is very useful in keeping the astronaut warm, meaning they need to use that much less electricity to stay alive.

      You have to make the space suits out of something... it may as well be something that can recapture energy normally wasted in motion.

      Unles

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        There is NO SUCH THING as "wasted energy". It always does SOMETHING. In the freezing vacuum of space, in particular, that heat is very useful in keeping the astronaut warm, meaning they need to use that much less electricity to stay alive.

        In the "freezing" vacuum of space there is no atmosphere to carry heat away via conduction and convection. Consequently, you lose heat only through near-infrared radiation. This is half of why spacesuits tend to be white. The other half is that if they weren't, the light

        • by evilviper (135110)
          Nothing I don't already know. There's really no point in explaining it, in detail, when the basic premise is good enough for the topic at hand.

          In other words, there may not be much heat energy in space, but there's plenty of light (when near the sun) and there's nothing to freeze you.

          They rarely allow space walks in sunlight, for good reason, so you can expect to always be freezing. For this reason, space suits have electric heaters to keep the occupants warm.

          A vacuum prevents convection, but the fact of

    • ... and if a significant amount of energy is to be generated it will have to come from additional force by the astronauts. Work = force times distance. Scavenging microscopic amounts of energy probably won't be noticeable; scavenging even rather small but nontrivial amounts of energy would get annoying fast.

      The only way around this that I see is if they are trying to harness the "inflation force" in the suits -- current suits tend to want to inflate into fully-extended balloons, and it takes force to bend
    • by khallow (566160)

      There is a lot of complaining that this will make the suits harder to bend and a number of other non-sense.

      Well, yes. That is a valid complaint since these devices would do that. My take here is that it would be better to convert that excess energy to heat and use the peltier effect [wikipedia.org] to convert some of that excess heat to electricity.
  • So they're investigating a protein for piezoelectric power generation. But where does the connection to space exploration come in? If you want to generate electricity, using humans is not your best option. You're better off combusting fuel to generate steam to power a turbine (and then recycling the steam). Humans require carbohydrates and oxygen to produce mechanical work with water and CO2 as byproducts. Combustion engines do the same thing, only much more efficiently.

    Sounds like a bunch of researcher
    • I don't see the connection to space necessarily either... it seems to me it would be used more effectively on earth... It may be a small amount of energy, but that small amount X 6 billion might be able to make some sort of a contribution, no? Then we could also have clothes that mended themselves. That would be cool. If it means we burn extra energy, all the better - this is would be very good (at least in NA, the rest of the world might not be as out of shape as we are :) )
    • by joto (134244)

      If you want to generate electricity, using humans is not your best option

      There was a movie called the matrix that said otherwise. There even was a matrix 2 and 3, so it can't be completely without merit.

  • Astronauts' spacesuits may one day be covered in motion-sensitive proteins that could generate power from the astronauts' movement
    Hmm... but what if they are making vigorous movements outside of their spacesuits? [unconfirmedsources.com]
  • Umm..... (Score:2, Interesting)

    wouldn't using the little piezoelectric crystals used in microphones and certain watches to produce electricity from motion be a lot simpler then trying to figure out a way to get proteins from our ears to do the same job a lot less efficiently ? Sounds like a waste of research funds to me!
    • by gardyloo (512791)
      [...]figure out a way to get proteins from our ears to do the same job a lot less efficiently ? Sounds like a waste of research funds to me!

            It does? If it sound like that, you haven't upgraded your ear-protein to the PiezoTimpanum2008 yet. Get with it, man!
  • I have dry skin, and static electricity has always been a nasty problem, especially during winter time. I'd be happy if someone can come up with a suit which can use that source of energy to charge my batteries.

  • Not Credible (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DrHow (892279)
    Another clue that the article should not be taken seriously is the following quote: "Peter Dallos of Northwestern University in Illinois, US, which patented the prestin molecule in 2003, says prestin may be 10,000 times more efficient at generating power than the best manmade material." That makes no sense. Efficiencies for converting mechanical power to electricity can be quite high (e.g., greater than 80%). Even if one were talking about efficiencies on the order of only 20% (such as we see with photov
    • by skelly33 (891182)
      Agreed - I scrolled through the whole thread to see if anyone else would mention this.

      The other thing that tickles me is, "Such 'power skins' could also be used to coat future human bases on Mars, where they could produce energy from the Martian wind."

      There's no way a jillion, zillion interconnected piezo-electric protein boogers are going to match the brutish output of a typical 10MW wind turbine for power generation. What space agency in their right mind would even consider the idea of something like
      • There's no way a jillion, zillion interconnected piezo-electric protein boogers are going to match the brutish output of a typical 10MW wind turbine for power generation.

        Especially considering that the kinematic boundary layer between the wind flow and the building will almost certainly be several orders of magnitude larger than said proteins. Whoever suggested that has clearly forgotten their elementary fluid dynamics (the No-Slip Condition) and should have asked someone who would have a clue, i.e. an E

    • by StarWreck (695075)
      I don't really think you're calculating efficiency correctly. By your calculations, something that is twice as efficient as a device thats 80% efficient would be 160% efficient. I'm pretty sure the number would be closer to 90%. Twice as efficient as 90%, I think would be closer to 95% instead of your 320% and so forth...

      I'm not really sure of the exact mathematical equation.

      10,000 times more efficient does seem pretty ludicrous though.
  • Let me get this straight:
    • You're going to send food and oxygen to Mars. Cost, about $200,000 per pound.
    • To feed and keep alive some astronauts. Efficiency, maybe 30%.
    • Then you're going to harness their muscles. Efficiency, maybe 20%
    • To flex little protein generators. Efficiency, maybe 10%
    • To generate and store electricity. Efficiency, maybe 50%

    So in the end, you're generating a teensy amount of electricity, let's estimate it:

    • Human power available, about .2 HP, that's about 150 watts.
    • After the protein
  • Biological coating for structures on Mars?
    Someone call Sheridan before they kill us all!

    (Maybe too obscure...)
  • Eventually, the biologically derived suits might even be able to heal themselves.

    Can we stop with the manned probes already? Earth is the only place in the solar system that is either safe or comfortable for humans. Even Mars, the next runner-up, is a century of terraforming away from habitability -- and even then it will still be too cold, and too damn far away.

    The future of space exploration is AI robotics.

    Actually that's the future of Earth too. To my eye, nature's purpose in evolving us is to crea

  • I beleive people are investigating how to use ambient human muscle power to automatically charge cells and mp3s. There used to be self-charging watches using motion, though lcds last years on ordinary batteries.
  • Gosh, what a dumb idea. Assume this works perfectly and the technology was free. You still would not want this in a space suit. Moving inside a space suit is hard work, the suit is pressurized and resists motion. Also every motion you make requires that you breath just a little more oxygen. Basically this idea is taking weight out of the battery and placing it in the oxygen tank. There is no free energy.

    I notice this effect when scuba diving. If I can relax and slow my motions the air consumption rate

I never cheated an honest man, only rascals. They wanted something for nothing. I gave them nothing for something. -- Joseph "Yellow Kid" Weil

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