Smartphones and tablets could one day be powered just by using them thanks to an amazing film-like material developed by scientists.
Researchers also say that the thin, flexible device could be used in clothing or shoes and harvest energy from our body movements.
“we’re on the path toward wearable devices powered by human motion,” said Nelson Sepulveda, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and lead investigator of the project.
“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,” said Sepulveda.
The film is what the researchers call a nanogenerator whereby electricity is produced by a small physical change which could be a tap or the swipse of a finger.
Generating electricity in this way is based on the principle of piezoelectricity where electric charge accumulates as a result of mechanical stress. In the case of this device, when pressure is applied, the foam layer compresses and creates a change in dipole moments (an interaction between positive and negatively charged molecules in the polypropylene ferroelectret – the active material in the device).
When this change in the dipole moments occurs, it generates an electric charge and could power everyday devices such as touch sensitive keyboards.
One of the challenges the researchers face with the device is ensuring a steady current. Although the material is able to generate 50 volts, the current generated isn’t stable and you need to keep applying the pressure to keep the lights or displays activated.
It might be a while before the technology appears in consumer devices but if it does, it will enable us to harness the vast amount of energy our bodies lose whilst we walk around.
The researchers are even experimenting with transmitting the generated electricity wirelessly so that it could power Bluetooth headphones.
Check out the videos below to see the technology in action.