5 unusual uses for electricity


Use of electricity, from both conventional and alternative sources, is at an all-time high. Energy consumption is also major news due to record electricity prices in the UK as a result of the recent round of price hikes by all the major energy suppliers. Of course, much of the additional daily usage now comes from an ever-spiralling reliance on gadgets and devices such as electronic book readers, tablets such as the iPad, and of course home computers and laptops.

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In addition to heating, lighting, transportation, power and “normal” energy consumption, there are many diverse ways in which electricity is used. This article takes a brief look at five of the more unusual applications.

1. Fish and tropical pet tanks

There are many people who keep tropical fish or pets whose housing requires a constant source of heat, lighting or filtration. It is not surprising that systems which require continual electricity input have a significant cost overhead associated. The higher the ambient temperature and light levels required, the higher the likely costs. So if you’re considering investing in such pets, be aware of the on-going cost that you may not have factored in.

2. Powering advertisements on clothing

It may seem bizarre, but a prominent lingerie manufacturer actually pioneered the idea of using women’s underwear as a source of advertising. In 2008, a solar powered bra was demonstrated which incorporated a small panel to display advertising and personal messages. Whilst it’s very unlikely this will catch on globally, it’s a short leap to envisaging this sort of advertising built into clothes worn at exhibitions and fashion shows.

3. Air freshener plugs

Want to freshen your room? Conventional wisdom would suggest opening a window to let in fresh air. In the modern age, however, all kinds of air fresheners which plug into mains electricity are available – these can give off specific aromas, can be set to release their chemicals at fixed time periods or just provide a constant source of “freshness”. Whilst these are more environmentally-sensible than aerosol-based air fresheners, they still consume electricity.

4. Making ice cubes

Ice cubes come from the freezer, right? Not necessarily! A wide range of stand-alone ice cube making machines is now available – from simple table-top devices which create a handful of cubes to commercial devices costing thousands of pounds. Ice is clearly big business! Once the more exclusive preserve of the movie and entertainment industries, domestic ice making machines are becoming ever more visible in households and small businesses around the UK.

5. Fishy uses of electricity

One of the more unusual applications of electricity happens in the natural world. Peters’ elephantnose fish are capable of sending out very weak electrical impulses from their chin in order to scan surrounding waters and seabeds. By doing so, they are able to examine their surroundings with incredible accuracy. The fish are even able to distinguish between living and dead matter. The fish send out up to 80 pulses per second and the resultant distortions in the electrical field enable the creatures to accurately map whatever is in their vicinity!