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Generators and Motors

Devices that change kinetic energy to electrical energy through electromagnetic induction.

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Human Generator

Human Generator


Credit: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Matthew Schwarz
Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:US_Navy_061026-N-1113S-003_Petty_Officer_2nd_Class_Mark_Somsel_generates_electricity_on_a_bicycle_while_Tokyo_Electric_Power_Company%5Ersquo,s_Yasumasa_Musha_and_explain_the_process_during_Atsugi%5Ersquo,s_fourth_annual_Energy_Fair.jpg
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

The soldier riding this odd-looking bike is getting more out of his effort than a workout. He’s also generating electricity. But is it worth all the effort?

News You Can Use

  • It is possible to use just about any source of mechanical energy to generate electric current. Flowing water, moving air (wind), or moving bike pedals can be attached to an electric generator. The generator converts the mechanical energy to electrical energy through the process of electromagnetic induction.
  • A California rock band named “Ginger Ninjas” used bicycles not only to carry themselves and their equipment on tour. They also used the bicycles to generate all the electricity they needed to perform. Watch this video to see how and why they did it: 


What Do You Think?

Learn more about generating electric current with a bicycle as well as how generators work at the links below. Be sure to explore the interactive animation in addition to reading the short article at the second link. Then answer the questions that follow.

  1. What is electromagnetic induction?
  2. What energy conversion takes place when electromagnetic induction occurs?
  3. How does a simple electric generator work?
  4. How does a bike generator work?
  5. How much electricity can a reasonably fit person generate in an hour with a bike generator? Give some examples of small electric devices that could be powered with this electricity. How long can each device run on that amount of electricity?
  6. What are some actual, real-world uses of bike generators?
  7. What do you think? How likely is it that bicycle-generated electricity will become widely used? Explain your answer.

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