In-flight liposuction could power aircraft

In-flight liposuction could power aircraft

A fairly surreal conversation emerged last night at my flat when I suggested that perhaps overweight people could get liposuction on long-haul flights, and the resulting fat could be used as ‘bio-fuel’ to power certain systems on the aircraft, thus reducing fuel consumption. ‘Virgin Surgeons’ one of us said. As unrealistic as this sounds (you only have to know a bit about medicine to figure out why it wouldn’t work, and a bit about psychology to know why people wouldn’t accept it), it does highlight the fact that humans walk around either storing or generating a lot of energy that is never put to good use.

Back in the days of Vikings, the crew would row the galleons to assist the wind power. So, can the same principal be applied to other forms of transport? There have already been scooters which you can pedal to assist their engine, for example. Could this be done en masse in public transport? How about in gyms? Why hasn’t some enterprising gym owner hooked his treadmills and exercise bikes to the national grid and pumped the energy generated by the clients back into the system? This electricity can then be used to power plug-in electric cars.

It might become a noble thing in the future that people go to ‘grid gyms’ – a place where your workout actively generates electricity for the city. Perhaps  you get tax credits.

OK, so now I’ve set this idea of a utopia where there’s unlimited energy available by human work. That’s not going to be the case: a fit human can generate around 100W for a couple of hours maximum. 30 humans, if you take into account mechanical losses would therefore only generate around 2kW. That’s enough to run a heater, which isn’t bad. If you had 60,000 people nationwide you may generate 4MW of power. With a very rough calculation, that would power bugger all.

But every little bit helps.

A fairly surreal conversation emerged last night at my flat when I suggested that perhaps overweight people could get liposuction on long-haul flights, and the resulting fat could be used as ‘bio-fuel’ to power certain systems on the aircraft, thus reducing fuel consumption. ‘Virgin Surgeons’ one of us said. As unrealistic as this sounds (you only have to know a bit about medicine to figure out why it wouldn’t work, and a bit about psychology to know why people wouldn’t accept it), it does highlight the fact that humans walk around either storing or generating a lot of energy that is never put to good use.

Back in the days of Vikings, the crew would row the galleons to assist the wind power. So, can the same principal be applied to other forms of transport? There have already been scooters which you can pedal to assist their engine, for example. Could this be done en masse in public transport? How about in gyms? Why hasn’t some enterprising gym owner hooked his treadmills and exercise bikes to the national grid and pumped the energy generated by the clients back into the system? This electricity can then be used to power plug-in electric cars.

It might become a noble thing in the future that people go to ‘grid gyms’ – a place where your workout actively generates electricity for the city. Perhaps  you get tax credits.

OK, so now I’ve set this idea of a utopia where there’s unlimited energy available by human work. That’s not going to be the case: a fit human can generate around 100W for a couple of hours maximum. 30 humans, if you take into account mechanical losses would therefore only generate around 2kW. That’s enough to run a heater, which isn’t bad. If you had 60,000 people nationwide you may generate 4MW of power. With a very rough calculation, that would power bugger all.

But every little bit helps.

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