News / Science & Technology

Power Your Laptop by Taking a Walk

Invention reduces dependence on batteries

Artist's rendering of a shoe embedded with components that collect and store power to run mobile devices.
Artist's rendering of a shoe embedded with components that collect and store power to run mobile devices.

Multimedia

Audio
Rosanne Skirble

Scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have developed a technology that turns human motion into electricity.

In this week's journal Nature Communications, they describe how to power a cell phone or other mobile device - like a laptop computer or GPS system - by simply taking a walk.  

They've embedded an energy harvester in a shoe.  

The harvester consists of two small chambers filled with thousands of liquid mini-droplets pushed back and forth when you walk. The fluids flow through flexible plastic tubes with embedded electrodes which directly convert the energy into electric power, which is stored in a tiny battery.

There are no wires in this human-powered mobile phone. It connects to a cellular transmitter also embedded in the shoe, using low-power wireless technology like Bluetooth. That signal is then relayed by the transmitter to the cell tower.

Study co-author and University of Wisconsin engineering professor Tom Krupenkin says such a system dramatically reduces power consumption of the mobile device and allows it to operate for a much longer time.

“That means the cell phone will consume very little energy to do that, literally tens of times less.”

The components are about the size of a credit card. Krupenkin says the main advantage is the system’s always-ready power. Unlike a traditional battery, the energy harvester never needs to be recharged.

“Once you start walking, a standard harvester - which we plan to be about two watts of output power - would start to produce enough power to power your cell phone immediately.”

Krupenkin and colleagues don't expect the device to replace standard batteries, but rather to reduce our dependence on costly and polluting batteries, especially in portable electronics.

“It helps you because you don’t rely on the battery that much and it also helps because it greatly increases the reliability of your power system. You make a system which is potentially always available to you.”

Krupenkin says the technology makes sense for any cell phone or laptop computer user.  He also envisions use in remote areas of the world where electrical grids for recharging batteries are not available or expensive, or to relieve the burden on soldiers who must now carry their heavy battery-operated electronic gear into the field.

He expects to have a commercial product on the market within two years.

You May Like

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

There is growing uncertainty over whether West’s response to ISIS is adequate More

China Crackdown on Dual Citizens Causes Concern

New policy encourages reporting people who obtain citizenship in another country, but retain Chinese citizenship; move spurs sharp debate More

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

Losing ground to Islamic State fighters, Syria's government says it is ready to cooperate with international community More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid