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HighDro Power converts falling wastewater into electricity


July 22, 2010

Tom Broadbent and his HighDro Power system for harnessing the energy from falling wastewater

Tom Broadbent and his HighDro Power system for harnessing the energy from falling wastewater

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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.

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag. All articles by Darren Quick


Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

Anumakonda Jagadeesh

Why stop with sewer water? What about all of the water that travels through the rain gutters and AC condensate drains?


YUCK ! I\'ld hate to be the electrician called out to fix this electrical system!


Saddly not a new invention. I built two such devices in Italy 20 years ago as there, one inch of rain can fall in one hour. Do the maths and if you have a roof area of 40 sqms, it can produce a lot of energy in a short time. In any year Tuscany gets anything from 10 to 20 such days and when you see one of these rainstorms, any one involved in renewable energy field, thinks free energy! We have in Scotland, myself and group, talked about making more drainpipe generators as our climate is ideal, finding the right components to use in a fit and forget system is time consuming, especialy if you have to pay bills, mortgage, expenses etc etc. Mt Broadbent has the advantage of clever market and Pr machine supporting him and a Uni that has lots of resources. Sorry not an invention and gizmag should not be so enthusiastic as no doubt many others have built such devices but have had no one to trumpet the idea.


@freefuel, you are correct. Water wheels have certainly been around since ancient times, and hydro-electric turbines for a century. The difference here appears to be a turbine designed not to clog when the fluid includes sticky solids, as opposed to water. The maintenance and audit inspection aspects would certainly need careful attention, and I am not volunteering to do it!


Yeah.....nice idea BUT.... the cost of the unit, meansthat it would have to be installed in an area where there is enough \"flow\" of grey water and sewerage etc... to actually make it economically viable.....

It\'s a sort of \"shitty\" microturbine, and the full time systems in streams, are designed to operate quite well on very low heads, I recall of only a meter or less.

So sticking it all into a hotel of several stories and a 100 guests or many stories and a 1000 guests....

Actually it\'s not a bad idea......

Mr Stiffy

A most commendable idea, sadly nothing new...I presented this concept at Loughborough University 4 years ago. If you run the numbers, given the average flow rate of such a sewage/drainage system, the generation capability of the turbines (given the pipe bore and the flow constriction caused by the upstream turbines/bends/debris etc.) - the payback period is huge and the energy generated is relatively small (even using the most sophicticated turbines) and highly periodic making it an unviable solution...potential enhancements could include a primitive heat exchanger for heated waste (baths, washing machines, showers etc.), but adds to the cost with little benefit or rainwater storage for smoothing periods of peak electricity demand...a great idea never the less!


Here in the UK, where rain isn't exactly a premium I think it is a great idea.

Peter Bray
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