I know keeping my laptop charged when I’m out and about is S-T-R-E-S-S-F-U-L-L. This week got delayed at the airport, finding an available electric plug and a chair, at the same time in the departure lounge, proved impossible.
Keeping your computer plugged in, not to the internet, but to the wall socket, so you are connected to the world and in charge of your world is a hassle.
But, thanks to the research of two engineers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, sustainable energy for all portable devices might be a hop, skip and jump away.
Pulling the plug to really go mobile
These clever engineers are working on new ways to harvest energy.
Not the sun’s energy, but yours.
But the burning process itself is inherently not very efficient – we give off significant amounts of energy, in the form of heat.
The Wisconsin-Madison team have found away to grab this energy and turn it into electronic power.
Tuning into the kilo watt range
Most sustainable energy technologies are focused on
- mega watts – big engineering projects which can turn the sun, wind and wastes, into power factories, to supply enough energy for a city or small country.
- micro watts – small power packs to keep a calculator crunching numbers.
But the stuff we use everyday, needs kilo watts of power, in any weather.
Kilowatting with reverse electrowetting
Reverse electrowetting is able to convert mechanical energy i.e. energy created by movement, into electrical energy, in the kilo watt range.
Underpinning the technology is a miniscule device made up of thousands of tiny droplets. The movement wiggles the little droplets, which are able to interact with a unique nanomaterial – as they bang against the material, they create electricity.
Because the device is so small, the movements don’t have to be enormous, to kick start the power generating process.
Human moves are enough to get the electronics powered up. One of the places the team plan to stick these little devices, is under the soles of your shoes.
You may remember a few years ago, when all the cool kids were lighting up, as they marched about the malls in their high tops. Sole power for kids, but only suitable for tiny devices.
Soon we’ll have sole power for grown-ups, instead of producing only a micro watt of power to get a LED light to glow, strutting your stuff, will allow you to light up your laptop, tablet or smartphone. It might even go Wifi… so you won’t need another set of wires to plug yourself in, how cool.
InStep NanoPower, will be sustainable energy for all….Reverse electrowetting as a new approach to high-power energy harvesting. Nature Communications (2011) 2: 448 Tom Krupenkin, J. Ashley Taylor.
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