Kinetic Energy Cell Phones: Shake a Leg for the Sake of Generating Power
A recent patent filed by telecommunications giant Nokia may lead to encouraging increased physical movement among cell phone users, since the technology will harness the user’s motion to power the device.
While the principles of kinetic energy have been applied to other portable devices, Nokia’s self-powered phone would be the first cell phone powered by piezoelectric crystals and human motion, eliminating the need for batteries or chargers. In addition to powering phones, the kinetic energy concept could be applied to other portable electronic units, including medical equipment, games, or CD/DVD players, that use batteries.
Use of piezoelectric crystals has been advanced by recent research that allows them to be imprinted on flexible materials for use in devices. The combination of movement and the electric current generated by the crystals would create electricity to power the phone.
Kinetic energy has been innovatively applied at a supermarket in Gloucester, England. The store installed kinetic energy plates in June 2009, and each time a car passes over the plates, a bit of energy is created, stored, and transferred to provide power for the cash register stations.
Several startup companies are working on ways to harness kinetic energy for mobile applications. M2E Power, recently purchased by Motionetics, received venture funding to produce a Microgenerator for the military market in 2007. Other companies working on the potentially disruptive technology include NightStar Flashlight, which provides 20 minutes of light produced by 30 seconds of shaking, and MicroStrain, Inc., who is using piezoelectric crystals in wireless sensors for aerospace, automotive, civil engineering, robotics, biomechanics, & robotics applications.