Yesterday we looked at technology being developed to generate electricity from sewage using bacteria. Today we’re looking at an innovative design that generates electricity from the method used to carry this sewage away. Invented by Tom Broadbent, an industrial design student at Leicester’s De Montfort University (DMU), the HighDro Power harnesses the energy from falling waste in the soil pipes of high-rise buildings and converts it to electricity.

Broadbent’s inspiration for the device came when he emptied a bath in a hotel and found that it drained very quickly and with a large amount of force. He realized that it would be possible to harness this energy in some way to create green electricity.

“HighDro Power works by using the water discharged from appliances such as showers, toilets and sinks in high-rise apartments. The water goes down the pipe and hits four turbine blades that drive one generator,” he said. “The whole thing was influenced by traditional waterwheels to ensure that any solids passing through had limited effects on whether they could function.”

Broadbent decided to develop his invention in answer to targets set at the G8 summit by governments to reduce their countries’ carbon dioxide emissions and dependence on fossil fuels for energy production by 2050. He says the electricity generated by the HighDro Power can either be used in the building to save around GBP925-per-year (approx US$1,410) or sold back to the national grid on a buy-back tariff.

To make a working prototype of the design, Broadbent used rapid prototyping techniques – laser sintering and CNC milling machinery – as well as vacuum forming. He sourced bearings, gears and other materials from companies supplying standard components.

In the future, Broadbent hopes to take his innovation to the next stage by having it fitted to a building for testing.