The days of avoiding people with the ‘sorry-my-phone-went-flat’ excuse might be numbered, as tech wizards look to create wearable, wind-powered chargers.
Researchers out of China have created a coin-sized device that acts much like in a turbine. It’s attached to the arm and as the wearer walks, it catches the breeze and uses it to generate power.
The nanogenerator works through static electricity, created when two plastic strips in a tube clap together. That electricity is then captured and stored.
The researchers, from the Beijing Institute of Nanoenergy and Nanosystems, want to go both ways with the invention: big and small.
“You can collect all the breeze in your everyday life,” senior author Ya Yang explained.
“We once placed our nanogenerator on a person’s arm, and a swinging arm’s airflow was enough to generate power.”
This video shows how the nanogenerator works in the outdoor environment. The breeze is enough to flutter the plastic strips to generate electricity. Credit Chen, Ma and Ren et al.
In its current form, the device can power up to 100 LED lights and temperature sensors.
One of the next steps for Professor Yang is to develop the generator into an even smaller device – and with more efficiency. This way it could be used to power items like mobile phones.
At the literal other end of the scale is to take it large – scale it up to produce 1000 watts, which would make it a competitor with traditional wind turbines.
Professor Yang was quick to point out he doesn’t want to create the wind turbine replacement – just a device that will complement the work of existing turbines.
We can place these devices where traditional wind turbines can’t reach,” he said, as the research was released in journal Cell Reports Physical Science on Thursday.
“We can put it in the mountains or on the top of buildings for sustainable energy.”