Unplugged – A Self-Powered Workstation

Eddi Törnberg, a Swedish graduate student, created the workstation above so that it generates all the power it needs through everyday activity. The name of the project is Unplugged and its thesis is aligns with Harriet Beecher Stowe’s quote, “Human nature is above all things lazy.” While I don’t subscribe to Stowe’s reasoning, I am excited to see the integration of renewable energy technologies into furniture design.

In Unplugged, three techniques  produce energy: piezoelectricity from the carpet, the Seebeck effect on the chair, and the flower through photosynthesis. Eddi explains how each element contributes to the power generation:

So-called piezo-elements are woven into the carpet, which means that whoever walks on the carpet exposing the crystal in the elements to mechanical stress and the elements then emit energy. [sic]

The flower is a plant-microbial fuel cell, which means that the natural sugars and enzymes help to extract energy through photosynthesis.

The seat of the chair is based on the Seebeck effect, which means that the metal on the upper surface becomes warm, in this case from the body heat, while the underside is kept cold by metal fins. The difference between these temperatures emits energy.

It’s not clear how much power this project could produce per workstation or if the design includes consideration for an inverter. If the technology works and can be scaled up, then I imagine many office designers will want to find ways to integrate this technology into new workstations.

Hat tip to Ken Szymusiak for pointing me over to Design Milk.