One of the more intriguing aspects of The Matrix (well, besides the uber-cool Matrix sunglasses, anyway…) is the concept that human beings can be harvested as an energy source. What follows are 3 reasons why this might actually be plausible.
The first and perhaps most obvious reason this is plausible is that the human body naturally produces energy. A typical human body produces 100 watts of power while at rest, 300-400 watts while lightly active, and up to 2,000 watts while at the peak of exertion (for example, sprinting). Most of this energy output is used by the body, but some is wasted in the form of body heat. And if this wasted energy could be captured and harnessed, it could certainly be converted into electricity.
Another reason why this idea is not that farfetched is that, generally speaking, we really need better batteries! The batteries currently produced are bulky and inflexible, and are limited in terms of which shapes they can be manufactured in. Batteries are so inefficient that the amount of power generated by one could be totally replaced by a few watts of power from the human body.
The third reason this could someday happen is that scientists and engineers have been working on harnessing ‘lost’ human energy for decades. In fact, some of these methods have already been put into practice. For example, devices are being used in Sweden that capture body heat to produce hot water which can then be piped to adjacent buildings. Another example is a special type of shoe developed by researchers at the University of Wisconsin that produces 10 watts of power just from walking.
Of course, these technologies have a long way to go before they become mainstream, so don’t stock up on your Matrix-busting Neo sunglasses just yet. In general, the technologies developed so far have been better at capturing energy en masse (as in the case of the example from Sweden) than they have been at the small and/or individual level (as in the case of the special shoe). Plus, no studies have been done to determine how much energy can safely be harnessed from a typical human body.
Despite the limitations of the existing technology, an energy source akin to human batteries is definitely on the horizon. Let’s just hope the same cannot be said for sentinel robots! For more details on the science behind the idea of the human battery, click here for a comprehensive overview. Enjoy!