Global Issues TED Talks

Playlist: Thoughts on energy efficiency from the TED2013 Talent Search

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As unusual seasonal effects raze our global ideas on sustainable practices, TED set out on a tour of 14 cities on six continents to find fresh perspectives for the TED2013 conference. While the 293 speakers who participated in this global Talent Search came from wildly different backgrounds, we couldn’t help but notice sweeping themes emerge from their talks. Here, 9 great talks on energy efficiency.

Laurence Kemball-Cook: Energy capturing cement
Laurence is an industrial design engineer who used to work for one of Europe’s largest energy companies, but now wants to put people on the power grid by harnessing their daily expendable energy. “Imagine if your walk home in the morning could power lights for your walk home in the evening,” Laurence says. His solution? Pavegen, a flooring tile that absorbs kinetic energy from footsteps and converts it into electricity. “It’s almost like the gamification of energy saving,” he explains.

Hassine Labaied: A more efficient wind energy — using sails
Challenging conventional wisdom is a must when starting and maintaining a revolution, and Hassine Labaeid — CEO of Energy Saphon — seeks to do that with the zero-blade system. As the world seeks to harness sustainable wind energy, Labaeid points out that 400-year-old technology of windmill turbines is expensive and only 30-35% efficient — not to mention the fact that the electricity it produces is unstorable. Inspired by sailboat design, the zero-blade system provides a clean, cheap and storable solution.

Raymond Wang: Harvesting energy from rain, hail and snow
While lying in bed on a rainy evening, 14-year-old Raymond Wang had his ‘A-ha!’ moment. He is looking to harvest energy from the weather — be it rain, snow, hail or wind. Using pizoelectric materials, Wang shows us how the mechanical stress of precipitation can be easily converted into electricity.

Josiah Omotto: Harvesting biogas from human waste
Sixty percent of Nairobi’s population — estimated at 4 million people — lives in informal settlements. But Josiah Omotto says that by putting a ban on open defecation, citizens could be waiting in the queue to poo for up to two days. He and his team at the Umande Trust have been working with communities to build biocenters that are capable of converting human waste into usable electricity.

Leyla Acaroglu: Paper or plastic? Debunking an environmental myth
Leyla Acaroglu, a life-cycle assessment proponent, believes people currently make decisions based on “environmental folklore” they’ve recycled from memories, articles and science teachers. To battle this ignorance, she says we’ve got to think of the entire life-cycle of products, systems and services as a scientific methodology to measure the actual impact choosing paper and plastic has on our earth.

Otto Ng: Canopying the desert for solar energy
Otto Ng is a technologist and architect currently researching the future of the power plant at MIT, which he calls “The Powerscape.” This structure, which is 100 times smaller in scale than a solar energy infrastructure, suspends a mesh of mirrors and sensors over sand, moving to reflect and capture the energy from the sun. The idea is to generate and store electricity for future use.

Alana Kakoyiannis: How to turn bootleg videotapes into fuel
In 2008, filmmaker Alana Kakoyiannis stumbled upon a ruin of Greek bootlegged videos in an abandoned room. After she had her artistic way with the reels, her uncle ignited an incendiary idea with a whisper — don’t discard those tapes, turn them into fuel. Here, she shares her story of reclaiming overproduction in the film industry.

Check out more wonderful playlists from the TED Talent Search. Rating of these 293 talks is open until August 31.