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Energy-Smart Inventions

All over the world, scientists are finding new ways to save energy - and make energy. In a few years, you might even be using some of these new energy-smart inventions in your home or school.

Electric cars

Sometimes the scientists are kids just like you!

All across the Midwest, teams of middle school and high school students are designing and building electric cars. When they're done, they race the cars in an event called an "Electrathon."

Electrathon electric car

The lightweight cars, powered only by a battery, are about 10 feet long and have three or four wheels.

The goal of the race is to see which team's car can do the most laps in one hour. The winning cars can drive nearly 30 miles on only a few cents worth of electricity!

Fuel cells

Fuel cell demonstrationOne of the most promising new ways to make electricity is called a fuel cell. It's a new type of battery that uses hydrogen to make electricity.

Hydrogen found all over the earth, in water, petroleum and in every living thing. Factories use hydrogen energy to process metal and food. Many of the space shuttle missions have used fuel cells for electric power.

When hydrogen is used to make electricity, the only thing left over is pure water. That's why scientists believe fuel cells will be good for the environment.

Right now, fuel cells cost of a lot of money to build. Scientists are working to find ways to make them cheaper so that we can use them in our homes, cars and schools.

Learn more about fuel cells and hydrogen energy.

Microturbines

Capstone MicroturbineA microturbine is a machine, about the size of a small refrigerator, which uses a jet engine to make electricity. Microturbines are good for the environment because they don't cause air pollution, and they use turn almost all of the fuel into useful electric and heat energy.

Many different kinds of fuel can be used in a microturbine: natural gas, propane, diesel gasoline and kerosene. Some microturbines use methane gas from landfills and sewage treatment plants.

In Iowa and Wisconsin, microturbines are also being used on farms to make electricity from cow manure! The manure contains a lot of methane, making it a good energy source.