Run Your Favorite Computing System Using Chemical Energy

Jeremy S. Cook
a year ago

What would happen if you could no longer get electricity cheaply from your local power company? While there would be the obvious problems of keeping the lights on, heating/cooling your house, and many other modern conveniences that we take for granted, you also wouldn’t be able to program your favorite dev board.

Norbert Heinz (AKA “HomoFaciens”), who is best known for constructing rather advanced mechanisms from crude and recycled parts, wouldn’t be entirely out of luck. As seen here, he now has the ability to power an Arduino Uno, a Raspberry Pi, or even a Siemens SIMATIC IOT2020 with chemical energy.

In his first attempt, he demonstrates himself eating a peanut bar, then using his apparently lightning-quick metabolism, turns a crank to provide power via a gearmotor. A capacitor is used to keep power constant in his setup.

After providing electricity to the Raspberry Pi literally by hand, he notes that if you have to perform this action, you’ll wish for more efficient code rather than more computing power! Of course, if you’re cranking your device to keep it on, this doesn’t leave much mental or physical bandwidth to actually use it. He also shows how power can be provided using a methanol-fueled RC plane engine, a possible solution to this conundrum.

While you may not want to use this technique on a regular basis, it’s a good reminder that energy, while relatively cheap isn’t free! Best to use a board and programming techniques appropriate for your needs.

Jeremy S. Cook
Engineer, maker of random contraptions, love learning about tech. Write for various publications, including Hackster!
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