Opportunity in the Mud

Opportunity is sometimes right in front of us and we don’t even know it.  In 2008, naval engineering companies asked fuel-cell researcher Keegan Cooke to find an easier way to produce power for their instruments, which are often at the bottom of the ocean.  The answer…mud.

As reported in the current issue of Mental Floss magazine, Cooke searched for several solutions before considering how to harvest power from the ocean floor itself.  Before Cooke could put his idea into practice, though, the start-up company that employed him was purchased.

However, Cooke continued to work on his idea in his spare time.  He dug up dirt from his back yard and placed it, along with anodes and cathodes, into jars.  Cooke then put specific types of food in the jars, and as the microbes in the mud ate the sugar, enough electrons were expelled to produce low levels of electrical current.  The microbes produced enough current to power a small LED light.  And this power could be produced almost indefinitely.

Cooke has named his LED light the “MudWatt.”  He now takes the “MudWatt” to local schools to inspire kids to become interested in science.  And, of course, he has ideas for how to scale his discovery to even bigger applications.

As Keegan Cooke demonstrated, the energy resources we seek may literally be under our feet.  Let’s consider how to apply this way of thinking to our own life.

Consider a challenge that confronts you.  Take a few minutes and brainstorm “crazy” ideas, as “crazy” as the idea of harnessing electrical current from mud.  Allow yourself to get as creative as possible.  By expanding your way of thinking, you just might discover the opportunity you’ve been searching for.

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