Approximately 2 billion people—nearly one-third of the world’s population—have no access to electricity, reports Florida State University (FSU). Consequently, they do without many of the amenities that people in the developed world take for granted. Without electricity to power factory operations or other commercial endeavors, those 2 billion people remain mired in poverty.

One FSU researcher is working to break that cycle through the development of new energy technologies that are easy to install, environmentally sound and inexpensive to produce.

“The principles are really simple,” said Anjane’yulu’ Krothapalli, chair of engineering at FSU. “At SESEC [Sustainable Energy Science & Engineering Center], we are exploring ways to combine existing technologies to convert solar radiation to heat; to use that heat to produce steam to run a low-cost, highly efficient turbine; and then to use the power generated by that turbine to run a small electric generator. Individual homes could be equipped with these technologies. So, rather than being connected to a vast power transmission system, which is prohibitively expensive in much of the world, individual homeowners would be able to generate the energy they need.”

To demonstrate this technology, plans are underway to build a small, completely self-sustaining demonstration house in the parking lot outside Krothapalli’s office at the FSU Fluid Mechanics Research Laboratory. The 800-square-foot facility, which will include living space and an office, will be constructed entirely out of environmentally sensitive materials.

“The challenge is to fuel worldwide economic growth and a reliable energy supply without despoiling our environment,” he said. “At SESEC, we’re focusing on technologies that will ease some of the burden that humanity places on our planet.”   EC