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

Uganda Court Annuls Anti-Gay Law

Court says law was passed in parliament without enough members present for a full quorum More

Multimedia Thailand Makes Efforts to Improve Conditions for Migrant Laborers

In Thailand, its not uncommon for parents to bring their children to work; one company, in-collaboration with other organizations, address safety concerns More

In Indonesia, Jihad Video Raises Concern

Video calls on Indonesians to join Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL 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.
In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborersi
X
Steve Herman
August 01, 2014 6:22 PM
Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborers

Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video Public Raises its Voice on Power Plant Pollution

In the United States, proposed rules to cut pollution from the nation’s 600 coal-fired power plants are generating a heated debate. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, charged with writing and implementing the plan, has already received 300,000 written comments. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, another 1,600 people are lining up this week at EPA headquarters and at satellite offices around the country to give their testimony in person.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

The public in China is welcoming the Communist Party's decision to investigate one of the country's once most powerful politicians, former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang. Analysts say the move by President Xi Jinping is not only an effort to win more support for the party, but an essential step to furthering much needed economic reforms and removing those who would stand in the way of change. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.

AppleAndroid