Move And Produce Electricity To Power Your Phone

Imagine slipping into a jacket, shirt or skirt that powers your cell phone, fitness tracker and other personal electronic devices as you walk, wave and even when you are sitting down. A new, ultrathin energy harvesting system developed at Vanderbilt University’s Nanomaterials and Energy Devices Laboratory has the potential to do just that. Based on battery technology and made from layers of black phosphorus that are only a few atoms thick, the new device generates small amounts of electricity when it is bent or pressed even at the extremely low frequencies characteristic of human motion.


In the future, I expect that we will all become charging depots for our personal devices by pulling energy directly from our motions and the environment,” said Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Cary Pint, who directed the research.
This is timely and exciting research given the growth of wearable devices such as exoskeletons and smart clothing, which could potentially benefit from Dr. Pint’s advances in materials and energy harvesting,” observed Karl Zelik, assistant professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering at Vanderbilt, an expert on the biomechanics of locomotion who did not participate in the device’s development.

Doctoral students Nitin Muralidharan and Mengya Lic o-led the effort to make and test the devices. When you look at Usain Bolt, you see the fastest man on Earth. When I look at him, I see a machine working at 5 Hertz, said Muralidharan.

The new energy harvesting system is described in a paper titled “Ultralow Frequency Electrochemical Mechanical Strain Energy Harvester using 2D Black Phosphorus Nanosheets” published  by the journal ACS Energy Letters.


How To Capture Energy From Human Motion

The day of charging cellphones with finger swipes and powering Bluetooth headsets simply by walking is now much closer. Michigan State University engineering researchers have created a new way to harvest energy from human motion, using a film-like device that actually can be folded to create more power. With the low-cost device, known as a nanogenerator, the scientists successfully operated an LCD touch screen, a bank of 20 LED lights and a flexible keyboard, all with a simple touching or pressing motion and without the aid of a battery.

energy-from-human-motionThe foldable keyboard, created by Michigan State University engineer Nelson Sepulveda and his research team, operates by touch; no battery is needed. Sepulveda developed a new way to harvest energy from human motion using a pioneering device called a biocompatible ferroelectret nanogenerator, or FENG.

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 innovative process starts with a silicone wafer, which is then fabricated with several layers, or thin sheets, of environmentally friendly substances including silver, polyimide and polypropylene ferroelectret. Ions are added so that each layer in the device contains charged particles. Electrical energy is created when the device is compressed by human motion, or mechanical energy. The completed device is called a biocompatible ferroelectret nanogenerator, or FENG. The device is as thin as a sheet of paper and can be adapted to many applications and sizes. The device used to power the LED lights was palm-sized, for example, while the device used to power the touch screen was as small as a finger.

Advantages such as being lightweight, flexible, biocompatible, scalable, low-cost and robust could make FENGa promising and alternative method in the field of mechanical-energy harvesting” for many autonomous electronics such as wireless headsets, cell phones and other touch-screen devices, the study says. Remarkably, the device also becomes more powerful when folded.

Each time you fold it you are increasing exponentially the amount of voltage you are creating,” Sepulveda said. “You can start with a large device, but when you fold it once, and again, and again, it’s now much smaller and has more energy. Now it may be small enough to put in a specially made heel of your shoe so it creates power each time your heel strikes the ground.” Sepulveda and his team are developing technology that would transmit the power generated from the heel strike to, say, a wireless headset.

The  findings have been published in the journal Nano Energy.