MADISON, Wis., Aug. 23 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say the day may come when your cellphone -- or almost any other portable electronic device -- could be powered just by taking a walk.
University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers have describe a new energy-harvesting technology that could dramatically reduce dependence on batteries by capturing the energy of human motion to power portable electronics.
"Humans, generally speaking, are very powerful energy-producing machines," Tom Krupenkin, a UW-Madison professor of mechanical engineering, says. "While sprinting, a person can produce as much as a kilowatt of power."
Capturing just a small fraction of that energy, Krupenkin said in a UMW release Tuesday, would be enough to power a host of mobile electronic devices, from laptop computers to cellphones to flashlights.
Krupenkin and colleague J. Ashley Taylor describe a novel energy-harvesting technology known as "reverse electrowetting," where mechanical energy is converted to electrical energy using thousands of liquid micro-droplets interacting with a nano-structured material.
A footwear-embedded energy harvester using this technology could capture energy produced by humans during walking, normally lost as heat, and convert it into up to 20 watts of electrical power, they say.
Even though energy harvesting is unlikely to completely replace batteries, Krupenkin and Taylor say it can play a key role in reducing cost, pollution and other problems associated with battery use.