The Newton Machine: Reconstrained Design for Energy Infrastructure

Laura Watts, James Auger, Julian Hanna

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterScientificpeer-review


Energy, in all its forms, is essential to everyday and future living. Our inseparability from energy is not just a matter of electricity consumption and use, but includes our inseparability from all infrastructures of generation, transmission and storage. Our lives are energy-rich, but our relationship with energy is threadbare; electricity is ethereal and distant, a number on a meter. This paper describes a communityled project that has already begun to change that relationship. It is the design and prototype of an energy generation and storage solution–a gravity battery we call ‘The Newton Machine’–built from what is to hand, what is in the local landscape, with local expertise.

In this paper we document our community-led experiments to build and test a Newton Machine at the edge of Europe, in the northern islands of Orkney, Scotland. As a visualization and proof of concept, the gravity battery will power an electronic keyboard. Our aim is to demonstrate how smarter energy storage infrastructure can be prototyped in communities at the periphery, and then developed into a design method to be exhibited, shared and used elsewhere.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSHAPE ENERGY Research Design Challenge
Subtitle of host publicationControl, Change and Capacity-building in Energy Systems
Place of PublicationCambridge, UK
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Speculative Design
  • Energy
  • Design
  • Reconstrained Design


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