I don’t know about you, but my public school science fair participation usually involved something growing in a Styrofoam cup and only loosely scientific hand-drawn charts. Precisely none of my entries looked like Cynthia Lam’s, who may have just solved a whole handful of problems with her portable photocatalytic electricity generator and water purification unit. [caption id="attachment_17772" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Cynthia's photocatalytic generator and purifier[/caption] Her what? Apparently, the high school student from Melbourne, Australia, is pretty close to perfecting a portable technology that would produce energy while cleaning water. Not only that, but the by-product is non-polluting and the cost is low. And the implications for developing countries, as well as the rest of the world, are not lost on the ambitious teenager: “[N]ot only is there a lack of resources in third-world countries, but also the whole world is facing energy crisis and water pollution. My objective is to Replace an eco-friendly and economical approach to solve both issues.” And that she did. According to her, all you need is titania and light. Basically (if this can even be called basic), water is purified and sterilized through light (through a process called photocatalysis), which then produces hydrogen through water-splitting, which in turn generates electricity. Like I said – basic. Now, I’m not sure which is more impressive: the innovative and life-changing properties of this device, or the fact that it was developed by a high school student! Let’s be honest, when I was in high school, the only reactions I was concerned about was how my friends would like my new clothes. While emerging technologies like this invention could radically change the quality of life in poverty-stricken areas without access to clean water and power, Cynthia’s point is crucial: there is potential in her little gadget for even more universal benefit. As you know, we’re big fans of alternative technologies around here. Anything that decreases our dependence, even a little bit, on the famously vulnerable national grid is a plus in our book. Remember, it doesn’t take a major national disaster to interrupt utilities service. I’m thinking of two instances in the last year where my family lost access to power and water for multiple days, as a result of a very local storm and some septic hiccups. With a photocatalytic electricity generator and water purification unit (say that ten times fast!), I could have spared myself a freezer full of melted ice cream and funky smelling tap water. Cynthia’s device isn’t ready yet. And although we have no doubt that we’ll be seeing her name and her machine again soon, there are loads of other products on the market that take advantage of unconventional means to produce power, purify water, and generally make life bearable in the event of an emergency. Here are just a handful of those unconventional means and ways you can harness them in your own preparations. Solar – We’ve written about this (with embarrassing enthusiasm) before. We love the idea of using the sun’s limitless and available power to do everything from cook, to see in the dark, to heat our shower water. And if you think that solar equipment is too bulky or expensive to be useful for personal prep, you obviously haven’t checked out our range of solar products. UV – While it still requires a power source, the idea of purifying water with ultraviolet light kind of blows our mind. No changeable filter, no iodine or bleach, no jerry-rigged collection contraption in your backyard. We’re big fans of these small and light SteriPEN purifiers. Hand crank – While kids like Cynthia are changing the world with their amazing technology, the oldest and most reliable power source in the world is still human muscles. And by getting back to basics, you can ensure that you’re always able to do what you need to do, regardless of the wattage coming through your outlets. Check out everything you can do with this selection of (wo)man-powered tech. What alternative power possibilities have you particularly pumped? Tell us about them!