While electricity is an integral part of our daily lives, some modern technologies do not require electricity to function. These technologies rely on other energy sources, such as mechanical energy, solar energy, or kinetic energy, to operate. In this article, learn how seven modern technology examples work without electricity.
One typical instance of technology that does not require electricity is solar-powered calculators. These calculators are run on solar cells, which transform sunshine into electricity. The calculator can be powered in low light thanks to the solar cells, which are typically integrated into the calculator’s display. Calculators powered by solar energy are frequently used outdoors, with restricted access to electricity.
Solar-powered calculators introduced the public to green energy many years ago: https://t.co/W2aza1LJtt
— National Geographic (@NatGeo) February 26, 2016
Mechanical watches rely on the energy produced by a wound spring. Because of their precision and longevity, mechanical watches have been used for centuries and are still widely used today.
The watch’s movement is driven by winding the spring, which stores the energy released when the spring unwinds. The mechanical movement’s quality, influenced by the watch’s design and the watchmaker’s talent, determines how accurate the timepiece will be.
Another example of technology that does not require a connection to an electric power source is a wind-up radio. These radios are powered by a hand-cranked spring mechanism that powers a tiny generator to generate electricity. The radio’s circuitry and speakers are powered by the electricity produced. Wind-up radios are often employed in emergencies or locations with potentially restricted access to energy.
In Sudan, @unamidnews has distributed solar wind-up radios to vulnerable communities, helping them access life-saving information.
— United Nations (@UN) January 30, 2020
Clocks running on water are a rare technology that doesn’t need electricity. These clocks are powered by the energy created by the movement of water. The ancient Greeks developed the first water-powered clocks widely used in medieval Europe.
The weight and float of the clock are connected via a cable to operate it. The weight moves the clock, while the float controls the water flow to keep the timepiece accurate.
Bicycle-powered generators are an unusual example of technology that does not require a connection to an electric power output. These generators are powered by pedaling a bicycle, which drives a small generator to produce electricity.
This is where it all really started: Soichiro Honda’s first bike in 1946, a bicycle powered by WW2 military generator. Called the Putt Putt pic.twitter.com/KfwJfwPlMh
— Mat Oxley (@matoxley) October 14, 2016
The generated electricity can power various devices, including lights, fans and radios. Bicycle-powered generators are frequently used in isolated locations or situations where electricity access may be limited.
Hand-cranked flashlights use the hand crank to produce electricity, which powers the flashlight. The little battery that stores the generated electricity powers the flashlight’s LED bulb. Hand-cranked flashlights are frequently used in emergencies or places where access to electricity may be scarce.
One-of-a kind technology that doesn’t require electricity is gravity-powered lighting. In these lights, gravity powers an LED light source that can produce up to 20 minutes of light per cycle. A generator that charges a battery is powered by the weighted cord that the lamp pulls.
1⃣ I try to keep up with environmentally preferable products tech, but this one was new to me: gravity-powered lamps.
They are particularly suited for off-grid locations where it may be difficult to use a (much cheaper!) solar-powered lamp.
— Ronald Steenblik (@RonSteenblik) March 4, 2022
The battery’s stored energy then powers the LED bulb. Gravity-powered lamps are useful in places where access to electricity may be constrained, such as in rural villages or during power outages.
Will blockchains run without electricity in the future?
Among modern technologies are blockchains, which are decentralized digital ledgers that securely, openly, and quickly record and verify transactions. However, while computers are required to validate transactions and uphold network integrity, blockchains currently depend on electricity to run. A network of nodes (computers) must be able to interact with one another and agree upon the network’s state in order for the blockchain to function. Both the nodes and the internet infrastructure that connects them require electricity to function.
Therefore, it is unlikely that blockchains will be able to run without energy in the near future. Nonetheless, the development of proof-of-stake (PoS) consensus algorithms, which require a lot less energy than the proof-of-work (PoW) consensus algorithms used by Bitcoin (BTC) and certain other cryptocurrencies, is one effort being made to make blockchains more energy-efficient.
In addition, there are also efforts to develop renewable energy sources to power the computers that maintain the blockchain, which could reduce the environmental impact of blockchain technology. It is not yet apparent, though, whether these advancements will be sufficient to render blockchains entirely electricity-free.