Researchers from the University of Wisconsin Madison have been working on developing an innovative techniques for producing and storing energy that will enable consumers to rely less on the batteries in their mobile devices and charge their smartphones as they walk. Tom Krupenkin and J Ashley Taylor both mechanical engineers at the university have described a technology that would be able to harvest the energy of human motion and could be used to power mobile electronic devices. The technology could also have military applications because soldiers must carry heavy batteries which are used to power radios, GPS units and night vision goggles in the field.
“Human walking carries a lot of energy. Theoretical estimates show that it can produce up to 10 watts per shoe and that energy is just wasted as heat. A total of 20 watts from walking is not a small thing, especially compared to the power requirements of the majority of modern mobile devices,” said Dr. Krupenkin.
Lots of latent energy
He adds that just being able to tap into a small amount of that latent energy would be enough to power a wide variety of mobile devices ranging from smartphones, tablets to laptops and flashlights. The researchers say they have been working on developing new techniques which would directly convert mechanical motion into electrical energy. They recently published a paper on the subject in the journal Scientific Reports.
Converting mechanical energy into electricity
The researchers are making use of a method called “reverse electrowetting” this is a phenomenon by which when conductive liquid interacts with a nanofilm coated surface, mechanical energy becomes directly converted in electrical energy. Rather unsurprisingly the engineers are seeking to commercialise the technology through their startup InStep NanoPower.