Human energy harvesting: science or science fiction?

Harvesting energy from human motion? Does that send like science fiction? Well, it’s not. It is a reality and one that may be accessible for smartphone owners in the near future. What can be done? For starters, it will be possible to charge a smartphone battery with a simple finger swipe, thanks to a new technology –that is also low-cost–.
The device is known as a nano-generator, and, as of today, scientists have already used it in LCD touch screens. The system allows for energy to be saved into a device. This energy comes from motion, yes, human motion. The breakthrough technology is the first step on a path of wearable development, which will allow us to be hyperconnected. In the words of Nelson Sepulveda, associate professor at Michigan State University in the US:
“We’re on the path towards wearable devices powered by human motion. 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,”+

The process starts with a layered silicone wafer. Loads are then added so 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 ferro-electret nano-generator, or FENG.

The device is as thin as a sheet of paper and can be adapted to many applications and sizes. It is not only low cost, but also biocompatible, lightweight and robust. This makes it an alternative method in a field that we are yet to explore: the field of mechanical energy harvesting. What changes could this bring to the way in which we experience our surroundings? What can this mean for communications and connectivity? Those questions are yet to be answered, but we are definitely a few more steps into the future.

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