"What I foresee, relatively soon, is the capability of not having to charge your cell phone for an entire week, for example, because that energy will be produced by your movement.”
With new technology created by engineer researchers from Michigan State University, the simple actions of finger-swiping and walking may soon be able to power our smartphones and Bluetooth headsets.
The team created a cheap film-like device, called a nanogenerator, that harvests energy from human motion. Impressively, the scientists successfully operated a touch screen, a flexible keyboard, and 20 LED lights simply by touching and pressing motions — no battery needed.
“What I foresee, relatively soon, is the capability of not having to charge your cell phone for an entire week, for example, because that energy will be produced by your movement," lead investigator Nelson Sepulveda, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, said in a press statement.
Building the nanogenerator starts with a silicone wafer, which is then layered with thin sheets of environmentally-friendly substances like silver and polyimide. Next, ions are added to each layer to give them charged particles, thereby allowing electrical energy to be created when the device is compressed by human motion.
Perhaps most remarkable is the device’s ability to become more powerful when folded.
"Each time you fold it you are increasing exponentially the amount of voltage you are creating," Sepulveda explains. "You can start with a large device, but when you fold it once, and again, and again, it's now much smaller and has more energy. Now it may be small enough to put in a specially made heel of your shoe so it creates power each time your heel strikes the ground."
Being able to power a device by walking might serve the dual-purpose of inspiring people to get more active in our smartphone-addicted world.