It’s now possible to charge your mobile phone using the natural vibrations that surround it on a daily basis.
A team of engineers from multiple universities have created a nanogenerator to harvest and convert vibration energy from a surface – such as the passenger seat of a moving car – into power for the phone.
The technology could have any number of uses, from being able to charge devices in environments where a regulated power supply is not available – such as disaster zones where power lines have been damaged – to reducing energy use and environmental pollution.
Xudong Wang, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, US, said the developments could solve the problem of smartphones having to be charged on a frequent basis.
He said: “We believe this development could be a new solution for creating self-charged personal electronics.”
In an age where we are using more and more energy to power devices, homes and electronic products, this development could help to reduce pollution as well as decrease our dependence on fossil fuels.
“We believe this development could be a new solution for creating self-charged personal electronics.”
There are more than 1.5bn smartphones in the world and the average amount of energy it takes to power an iPhone or Android for a year is 1 Kilowatt-hour – equivalent to ten 100-watt incandescent lightbulbs running for an hour.
If introduced to phones in the market, the technology could help to save colossal amounts of power each year. In theory it could also be implemented into other devices but may struggle to be used in static devices that do not experience many vibrations.
In a post on its website the University explained how the team worked around traditional problems: “Rather than relying on a strain or an electrical field, the researchers incorporated zinc oxide nanoparticles into a PVDF thin film to trigger formation of the piezoelectric phase that enables it to harvest vibration energy.
“Then, they etched the nanoparticles off the film; the resulting interconnected pores – called “mesopores” because of their size – cause the otherwise stiff material to behave somewhat like a sponge.”
If introduced to phones in the market, the technology could help to save colossal amounts of power each year.
The team envisage that the nanogenerator, the full name of which is ‘mesoporous piezoelectric nanogenerator,’ could become an important part of electronic devices.
They suggest it could be used as a back panel or casing on the product. This is as well as being able to harvest energy from the surroundings of the device.
Wang says the simplicity of his team’s design and fabrication process could scale well to larger manufacturing settings.
“We can create tunable mechanical properties in the film. And also important is the design of the device because we can realize this structure, phone-powering cases or self-powered sensor systems might become possible.”