Innovation and Creative Thinking

Walt Disney said “If you can dream it, you can do it.” 

Who would have thought everyday things like revolving doors. algae or biowaste could generate energy? Ten years ago these ideas would have sounded ludicrous or bizarre. 

With today’s concerns surrounding climate change, carbon footprinting and skyrocketing fuel prices, these creative ideas show real practical application. 

Two New York architects – women with no scientific or engineering backgrounds – have created a revolving door that, with one day’s rotation, generates the equivalent of a 150-watt light bulb running for 100 hours. Created by Carmen Trudell & Jennifer Broudin as part of a research project for their Masters degree in Advanced Architectural Design at Columbia University, the Revolution Revolving Door converts human energy into electricity.

It’s about new ways of using energy, the door’s creators said. The prototype – one third the actual size – debuted in March at New York’s Eyebeam art and technology center. Its power lit up a dazzling array of 500 LED lights. 

The moving parts – the gear and flywheel assembly, a rotating magnetic wheel resembling the wheel you spin for prizes at a raffle, and a wire coil wheel – sit atop the door’s central shaft. 

The Revolution Door runs slightly faster than a standard revolving door and pushes easily. “It’s only a matter of time until (developers) want to invest,” says Trudell. 

Innovation and Creative Thinking Part 2

Universities are exploring different energy solutions. Common algae is being synthesized to create oil for biofuel. According to the National Algae Association, algae’s “a promising source of renewable oil that can be used for a variety of fuels (biofuel, hydrogen, jet fuel, bio gasoline).”
According to Pure Energy Systems Wiki neutral algae biofuel is non-toxic, biodegrades quickly” and is capable of producing 30 times more oil per acre than crops used for biofuels! Though still too expensive for commercial viabitily, in 2006 megacorporation Chevron began a five-year biofuel research alliance with U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory to explore algae’s use. Called the “crop of the future”, UC Berkeley is working with International Energy of Canada to produce hydrogen from algae.


Another unusual energy source is popping up across the country. The town of Sanford, Florida is building a plant to convert wastewater biosolids into synthetic gas (syngas). Sludge from wastewater treatment will be converted, using a biomass gassifier, into renewable “green” energy. The town thus saves on disposal transportation charges and pricey purchases of natural gas.

According to Paul Moore, Sanford Utility Director, “Sanford will save $9,000,000 over the 20-year life of our contractwww.greenenergy/ With such substantial anticipated savings, places like San Diego, Elmont, NY, and Alameda County (in the San Francisco Bay area) are scrambling to take advantage of this outstanding technology. Adding to the appeal, large systems can produce extra energy that would then be sold back to utility companies. 


Creative solutions like these have deep roots in our country’s history. It’s said that when Henry Ford visited Thomas Edison one day, he found it hard to push the front gate open at Edison’s yard. Chiding the great inventor about his rusty gate, Edison replied Ford had just pumped a gallon of water out of the well.

This waste-to-energy technology is a fast growing movement. Its roots go back to the 1980’s, and include southern Massachusetts’ SEMASS (Southern Energy of Massachusetts), whose gigantic resource recovery facility reclaims recyclable materials from waste and generates energy.

These innovative energy solutions – green algae and human waste – are born out of creative thinking. What else does the future hold? Perhaps your imagination has the next great idea.