Scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have developed a means of converting mechanical energy into electrical energy using a harmless, specially engineered virus. By simply tapping a finger on a virus-coated electrode the size of a postage stamp, the scientists were able to produce enough current to drive a liquid crystal display, albeit a very small one. The scientists claim that this is the first time that the piezoelectrical properties of a biological material have been harnessed.
Scientists have succeeded in endowing graphene with yet another useful property. Already, it is the thinnest, strongest and stiffest material ever measured, while also proving to be an excellent conductor of heat and electricity. These qualities have allowed it to find use in everything from transistors
to anti-corrosion coatings
. Now, two materials engineers from Stanford University have used computer models to show how it could also be turned into a piezoelectric material – this means that it could generate electricity when mechanically stressed, or change shape when subjected to an electric current.
Of all the energy-harvesting technologies presently in development, piezoelectric devices offer some of the most intriguing possibilities. They work by converting mechanical stress, which can take the form of movement-caused vibrations, into an electrical charge. This means that things such as shoes
– or anything else that moves or is subjected to movement – could be outfitted with piezoelectrics, which would produce power. Unfortunately, the range of vibrations that any one device can harness is presently quite limited. Research being conducted at North Carolina’s Duke University, however, could change that.
Insects have served as the inspiration for a number of Micro Air Vehicles
(MAVs) that could be deployed to monitor hazardous situations without putting humans in harm’s way. Now researchers at the University of Michigan College of Engineering are proposing using actual live insects enhanced with electronic sensors to achieve the same result. The insect cyborgs would use biological energy harvested from their body heat or movements to potentially power small sensors implanted on their bodies in order to gather vital information from hazardous environments.
One of the biggest hurdles facing the developers of biological implants is coming up with a power source to keep the implanted devices ticking. We've seen various technologies that could be used instead of traditional batteries (which require the patient to go under the knife so they can be replaced) such as wireless transmission
of power from outside the body, biological fuel cells
that generate electricity from a person's blood sugar, and piezoelectric devices
that generate electricity from body movements or the beating of the heart. Now researchers have developed a device that could be used to generate electricity from a patient's breathing.
Why change channels by clicking on buttons, when you could do the same thing by twisting your remote? Japan's Murata Manufacturing Company obviously sees advantages in this approach and has created a prototype dubbed the "Leaf Grip Remote Controller" to showcase the idea. Flexing the battery-less device not only changes TV channels, but it also switches inputs, controls the volume, and turns the power on and off.
The advantages of wireless sensors to monitor equipment and structures in remote locales are obvious, but are lessened significantly if their batteries need to be regularly changed. We’ve seen a number of microelectromechanical systems, or MEMS, that harvest energy from the environment, such as ambient light and radio waves
. Now MIT News is reporting the development of a new piezoelectric device that is about the size of a U.S. quarter and can generate 100 times as much power as similarly sized devices.
Although you may not be using a Get Smart
-style shoe phone anytime soon, it is possible that your mobile phone may end up receiving its power from
your shoes. University of Wisconsin-Madison engineering researchers Tom Krupenkin and J. Ashley Taylor have developed an in-shoe system that harvests the energy generated by walking. Currently, this energy is lost as heat. With their technology, however, they claim that up to 20 watts of electricity could be generated, and stored in an incorporated rechargeable battery.
Everlasting batteries and self-powering portable electronics have come one step closer to reality, according to the results of a new research by Australian scientists from Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT). The group of researchers successfully measured piezoelectric thin film’s capability to turn mechanical pressure into electricity. It may sound like an idea from the realm of science fiction, but the discovery could eventually lead to laptops powered through typing.
Visitors to the UK's best-known music festival are almost guaranteed three things - mud, loud music and a dead mobile device battery. Happily, Orange has increased the number of Chill 'n' Charge tents to help make sure lines of communication stay open and - in what is now becoming as much of a tradition as Glastonbury itself - the company has announced the development of a new green charging technology. Previous projects have included a Power Pump
and last year's Orange Power Wellies
, and the latest prototype charger is no less impressive. As the name may indicate, the Sound Charge t-shirt turns sound waves into electric charge, allowing the wearer to top up a device battery while thrashing around in the mosh pit.