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Science
24 Jul 2017

Soon, charge your cellphone by just walking!

Smartphones aren't a choice but a necessity today; mobile phones are becoming smarter, but most of them come with dumb batteries.

We often find ourselves "running" to find a charger as soon as the smartphone runs out of juice.

So, scientists have developed a device that requires people to "run" (or walk or just move!) to charge smartphones and other gadgets.

How? Find out!

In context

Harvesting electricity from human movements
Low battery anxiety? It may soon be history

The Device

Low battery anxiety? It may soon be history

Scientists at the US's Vanderbilt University, including Nitin Muralidharan of Indian origin, have built an "ultra-thin device" that can harvest electricity using only human motions like walking and even just waving.

It uses battery technology and is made of several black phosphorus layers that are "only a few atoms thick."

It generates small electric charges when bent or pressed even at very low frequencies.

We will all become charging depots: Asst. Professor Pint

Cary Pint, Assistant Professor at Vanderbilt University, stated: "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."

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Different Approach

How is this device different from other similar inventions?

The researchers had a different approach to design the device; compared to other similar models/devices, their invention has two main advantages.

Firstly, the "atomically thin" material is small enough to be easily impregnated into clothes without affecting the way they look or feel.

Secondly, the low-frequency window of movements: it can generate electricity from frequencies less than even 10Hz.

How safe is wearing clothes with impregnated electricity harvesters?

Pint stated: "Batteries usually catch on fire when the positive and negative electrodes are shorted, which ignites the electrolyte. Because our harvester has two identical electrodes, shorting it will do nothing more than inhibit the device from harvesting energy. That isn't a problem here."

Energy harvesters

Other energy harvesting devices and models

Several research groups across the world are working on developing energy harvesting devices using piezoelectric materials, which can generate electricity from mechanical strain.

However, such materials work at frequencies over 100Hz; they don't work in case of small human movements.

But the Vanderbilt researchers are extracting energy even from low-frequency human motions, which Nitin Muralidharan said, was "extremely challenging".

Electrified clothing?

According to Pint: "One of the more futuristic applications of this technology might be electrified clothing. It could power clothes impregnated with liquid crystal displays that allow wearers to change colors and patterns with a swipe on their smartphone."

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