Given the right conditions, a mechanical windmill with an oversized brake system is a cheap, effective, and sustainable heating system.
To improve energy security, we need to make infrastructures less reliable.
As long as we keep accumulating raw materials, the closing of the material life cycle remains an illusion, even for materials that are, in principle, recyclable.
Our new blog is designed to radically reduce the energy use associated with accessing our content.
For centuries, the Netherlands were mainly dredged by hand, supplemented by animal power, wind power and tidal power. Could it be done again?
How to live a more sustainable life? By placing responsibility squarely on the individual, attention is deflected away from the many institutions involved in structuring possible courses of action.
Compressed air energy storage is the sustainable and resilient alternative to chemical batteries, with much longer life expectancy, lower life cycle costs, technical simplicity, and low maintenance.
Historical compressed air systems hold the key to the design of a low-tech, low-cost, robust, sustainable and relatively energy efficient energy storage medium.
Researchers have calculated minimum levels of energy use needed to live a decent life, but what about maximum levels?
To focus on energy efficiency is to make present ways of life non-negotiable.
Adjusting energy demand to supply would make switching to renewable energy much more realistic than it is today.
Matching supply to demand at all times makes renewable power production a complex, slow, expensive and unsustainable undertaking.
Unlike solar and wind energy, human power is always available, no matter the season or time of day.
The heat storage hypocaust could keep a room warm for days with just one firing of the furnace.
Vietnam’s decentralised food system has low energy inputs and reduced food waste, giving us a glimpse of what an alternative food system might look like
The information society promises to dematerialise society and make it more sustainable, but modern office and knowledge work has itself become a large and rapidly growing consumer of energy and other resources
Could we rethink and redesign office equipment, combining the best of mechanical and digital devices?
Solar panels on window sills and balconies can supply more power than you would think.
Directly coupling DC power sources with DC loads can result in a significantly cheaper and more sustainable solar system.
Hydraulic power transmission is very efficient compared to electricity when it is used to operate powerful but infrequently used machines.
From the sixteenth to the twentieth century, urban farmers grew Mediterranean fruits and vegetables as far north as England and the Netherlands, using only renewable energy.
Contrary to its fully glazed counterpart, a passive solar greenhouse is designed to retain as much warmth as possible.
If we want the internet to keep working in circumstances where access to energy is more limited, we can learn important lessons from alternative network technologies.
These days, so many households have a WiFi-router installed that sharing the signal of these devices could provide free mobile internet access across densely populated cities.
The energy use of the internet can only stop growing when energy sources run out, unless we impose self-chosen limits.
Energy storage is often ignored when scientists investigate the sustainability of PV systems.
At high growth rates, the energy and CO2 savings made by the cumulative installed capacity of solar PV systems can be cancelled out by the energy use and CO2 emissions from the production of new installed capacity.
If we are looking for quick and substantial energy savings for existing buildings, then local heating systems deserve our closest attention
Radiant and conductive heating systems make energy use independent of the size of a room or building.
Most modern heating systems are primarily based on the heating of air. This seems an obvious choice, but there are far worthier alternatives.
Cooling people by increasing local airflow is at least ten times more energy efficient than refrigerating the air in a given space.
A fireless cooker doubles the efficiency of any type of cooking device because it shortens the time on the fire and limits heat transfer losses
Despite technological advancements since the Industrial Revolution, cooking remains a spectacularly inefficient process.
Modular cargo cycles are cheap to build and easy to customize.
Automation is more energy-intensive than mechanisation.
High speed rail is destroying the most valuable alternative to the airplane; the “low speed” rail network that has been in service for decades.
The arrival of compact lithium-ion batteries has increased the performance and diversity of electrically heated clothing.
Lime burning is a now-forgotten industry that sustained many agrarian communities before energy became cheap.
In the nineteenth century, miniature water turbines were connected to the tap and could power any machine that is now driven by electricity
The hydro power installations in use today are less energy efficient than those of earlier centuries.
The trend towards small-scale, decentralised power production means that rope transmission might have a place in our energy system again
Jerker line systems can be used to operate water pumps or sawing machines, to forge iron, to process food or fibres, or to make paper.
Long-distance power transmission predates the invention of electricity by almost four centuries.
A modular system unites the advantages of standardisation (parts can be produced cheaply in large amounts) with the advantages of customisation (a large diversity of unique objects can be made with relatively few parts).
About a quarter of the existent wind turbines would suffice to power as many electric velomobiles as there are people.
A car with a top speed of 270 km/h can be driven anywhere on Earth, while an electric velomobile with an electric assistance of up to 50 km/h is illegal is most countries.
A cargo cycle is at least as fast as a delivery van in the city - and much cheaper to use.
Modern research, which combines ancient knowledge with fast computing techniques, shows that passive solar cities are a realistic option, allowing for surprisingly high population densities.
In order to ensure solar access and fresh air, many cities in Europe and in the United States enacted a variety of building codes between the 1850s and the 1930s.
Solar access for all can be achieved with densities of up to 200 people per acre.
Virtually all human cultures have made baskets, and have apparently done so since we co-existed with ground sloths and sabre-toothed cats.
For being such a seemingly ordinary vehicle, the wheelbarrow has a surprisingly exciting history.
The old-timers on these pictures are not moving furniture or an oversized load. What can be seen on the roof is the fuel tank of the vehicle - a balloon filled with uncompressed gas.
Almost all of the leading economies in Western Europe during the last millenium relied on a large-scale use of fossil fuels such as peat and coal.
To power industrial processes like the making of chemicals, the smelting of metals or the production of microchips, we need a renewable source of thermal energy.
The present approach to pedal power results in highly inefficient machines.
From the 1870s onwards, pedals and cranks were attached to tools like lathes, saws, grinders, shapers, tool sharpeners and to boring, drilling and cutting machines.
The possibilities of pedal power largely exceed the use of the bicycle.
Modern thermal underclothing offers the possibility to turn the thermostat much lower without sacrificing comfort or sex appeal.
Cargo tramways can be fully or partly powered by gravity, and some deliver excess power that can be utilized to generate electricity or to drive cranes or machinery in nearby factories
During the last quarter of the 19th century, a radically improved generation of tools appeared.
Boat mills, bridge mills and hanging mills were almost as widespread as windmills.
The human power required to achieve a speed of 30 km/h in a velomobile is only 79 watts, compared to 271 watts on a normal bicycle.
Flushing the water closet wreaks ecological havoc, deprives agricultural soils of essential nutrients and makes food production dependent on fossil fuels.
Estimates about the fuel efficiency of aircraft ignore the record of the pre-jet era.
Ropewalk factories are some of the most remarkable industrial workshops and buildings in history.
We don’t need better batteries, we need better cars.
The only advantage that fossil-fuelled powered cranes have brought us, is a higher lifting speed
During the Second World War, almost every motorised vehicle in continental Europe was converted to use firewood.
Only four years after the first experimental trolleybus, an ordinary steam canal boat was adapted to a trolleyboat.
Increasing the share of renewable energy will not make us any less dependent on fossil fuels as long as total energy consumption keeps rising.
Depending on the size of the kiln, it took between one and six weeks for the fire to complete a full circle.
Would it make sense to revive the industrial windmill and again convert kinetic energy directly into mechanical energy?
Cable trains (or funiculars) are one of the most energy-efficient modes of transport out there.
Trolleybuses and trolleytrucks have all the advantages of electric cars — and none of their drawbacks.
The embodied energy of the memory chip alone exceeds the energy consumption of a laptop during its life expectancy of 3 years.
Wind power rules, but small windmills are a swindle.
Time for a new age of sail.
Fast recharging times generate lots of excitement, but what seems to be forgotten is that they can lead to a fabulous amount of peak demand.
The craftsmanship associated with timbrel vaulting has long vanished, but the achievements are still with us today.
Narcís Monturiol successfully resolved the two basic obstacles presented to submarine inventors: air supply and mechanical power.
In spite of all the high-tech that has been squeezed into cars, the 2CV from 1949 is still more energy efficient than the smallest Citroen today.
If we would stuff people in the ‘Queen Mary 2’ like we fold passengers into airplane seats, the ship could transport more than 500,000 people
Replacing tractors with real horse power could be the revolution that agriculture needs.
Turn off your flat screen television and get lost in 17th, 18th and 19th century optical entertainment.
More than two centuries ago, it was possible to very accurately pinpoint your position on earth by means of ‘satellites’.
More than 200 years ago it was already possible to send messages throughout Europe and America at the speed of an aeroplane – wireless and without need for electricity.
Page created: Fri, Mar 08, 2019 - 09:00 PM GMT