Kinetic energy-powered electronics a step closer to reality say researchers

While the idea of powering portable electronics with kinetic energy has been around for a while, a new type of energy harvesting device proposed by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison could bring the idea closer to reality. 

In a paper that appeared August 23 in the journal Nature Communications, engineering researchers Tom Krupenkin and J. Ashley Taylor from the University of Madison-Wisconsin proposed a new type of kinetic energy harvesting technology which, they claim could "dramatically reduce our dependence on batteries."

Krupenkin and Taylor claim that the kinetic energy generated by a person's movements could be transformed into electrical energy using a process known as 'reverse electrowetting,' elaborated by researchers at Wisconsin.

Essentially this process would allow a person with an energy harvesting device embedded in their footwear to generate electrical energy while walking; according to the researchers, enough energy would be generated to power devices ranging from smartphones to night vision goggles.  

The researchers also state that the energy harvesting device could be integrated with a WiFi network and act as a bridge between a mobile device and the network, thereby reducing the amount of battery power needed by a mobile device to browse the internet.

While the researchers admit that the device is unlikely to replace batteries anytime soon, they believe that the technology could play a key role in helping those without easy access to an electric grid and reducing problems, including environmental issues, associated with battery use.

Alternative methods from charging mobile devices are becoming a popular area of research: earlier in 2011 Dr. Sang-Woo Kim from Sungkyunkwan University in South Korea proposed a design for a mobile which drew its power from the sound of the user's voice, and in March researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology designed a MP3 player which could be powered by a human heart beat.

Krupenkin and Taylor's paper "Reverse electrowatting as a new approach to high-power energy harvesting" in the journal Nature Communications: http://www.nature.com/ncomms/journal/v2/n8/full/ncomms1454.html

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