Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) revealed that they have developed a way to transform small body movements into electricity that can power up devices.
The study, published in Nature Communications on Jan. 6, indicated that, by using technology akin to that used in lithium-ion batteries, mechanical energy generated from movements of the body can be absorbed and transformed into electricity.
The MIT researchers sandwiched a liquid electrolyte-saturated porous polymer sheet between two thin lithium alloy layers. The polymer sheet works to transport the lithium ions from one lithium alloy layer to another. Bending the components creates pressure, compressing the lithium ions through the polymer sheet and generating voltage.
The components of the energy-harnessing device are not only flexible but also inexpensive to produce, which means the new technology is a great fit for use in wearable devices.
What Is The Limit Of The Technology?
To put it simply, it doesn't have one. Professor Ju Li of the MIT's materials science and engineering department, one of the study authors, said that the device is not limited by the second law of thermodynamics so efficiency could reach 100 percent.
If you recall your physics lessons, the second law of thermodynamics indicates that more energy is wasted as more of it is transformed. To give you a more concrete example, just think about how new electronic gadgets can last, say, two to three days per charge - depending on the usage, of course - but seems to lose battery life quicker as time passes until it can only last for a few hours despite being fully charged.
What Does This Mean For Consumers?
The implication of the MIT study is that, should the technology be used for wearable devices, you won't have to worry about finding a wall socket or bringing a power bank just to keep your gadgets from getting drained.
Interested consumers will have to wait for a bit, though, because the generating capacity of the device is currently only at 15 percent. With time and a few breakthroughs, it could go all the way up to a hundred percent.
The idea of achieving absolute efficiency may seem daunting but it is entirely possible. If the technology gets perfected and is used in electronic devices, companies and consumers no longer have to keep worrying over the capacity of their device's batteries because energy will not be wasted and electric bills would most likely go down at least a little.
What Are The Practical Applications For This Technology?
Since movement is the basic necessity in order to transform mechanical energy to electricity, the technology would make the greatest impact on wearable devices and may even promote fitness.
Need to juice up your gadget? Do jumping jacks. If you need more battery power, go for lunges, squats and twists. Just think of how much clean energy people who join marathons could make and how those resolutions to get fit and healthy would be just an arm's reach - or bend - away.
You won't only sweat it out, you'll also charge up both your body and electronic devices. It's a win-win situation.
"Efficient harvesting of such mechanical energies will help to develop more capable and intelligent wearable devices and human-machine interfaces," Purdue University Assistant Professor of industrial engineering Wenzhuo Wu said. Wu was not involved in the project but he sees the advantages of the technology for practical applications.