Engineering researchers at Michigan State University have developed a new way to capture and use energy generated by human motion. A paper-thin device called a ferroelectret nanogenerator (FENG) produces electric energy when compressed or folded and promises to have a bold impact on portable electronics.
We’ll have the ability to charge our headset or cell phone with human motion meaning no more frantic searches for the power cord or a place to recharge. In some devices, the nanogenerator many even replace the battery. Technology in the form of electronic gadgetry would become more practical in remote areas.
“We’re on the path toward wearable devices powered by human motion,” said Nelson Sepulveda, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and lead investigator of the project.
So far, the team has successfully powered by touch a bank of LED lights, an LCD touch screen, and a flexible keyboard. Sepulveda and his team are currently developing technology that could be placed in the heel of a shoe. The power generated when walking could be transmitted to a wireless device such as a headset or watch.
Additional advantages of the FENG technology include affordability, biocompatibility (it is composed of non-toxic materials), and adaptability. The paper-thin material is both flexible and foldable. Each time you fold it, the voltage created increases exponentially.
The bold idea—a flexible device that captures energy from human motion—opens up the possibility of clothing that captures our body movements to power our electronic gear.