There was a time when the consumer had to shop around to find a deal on a portable charger that was affordable while supplying enough power to charge up their device; today, one can find multiple deals where a charger is both affordable and powerful enough to charge up their devices multiple times.
However, what if instead of having to purchase a portable charger or use a wall socket to charge up your gadget you could accomplish this by using your own body? What sounds like science fiction today could become the future of technology: gadgets that can be powered by using the human body.
New research is focusing on how electricity can be generated through an individual’s movements and then harnessed to charge an electronic device, such as a smartphone. Though this sounds like something out of a science fiction movie, a recent article discusses the research behind this idea and how this could be accomplished.
Harnessing the Power of the Human Body
Dr. Qiaoqiang Gan, lead author and an associate professor of electrical engineering at the University of Applied Sciences and Buffalo’s School of Engineering talks about his reasoning behind this concept. Gan said that no one likes being tethered to a power outlet or lugging around a portable charger. The human body is an abundant source of energy. We thought: ‘Why not harness it to produce our own power?
This process is achieved by using a small, metallic tab known as a triboelectric nanogenerator to a person’s body. According to the researchers, the tab is capable of generating electricity from bending a finger and other simple movements. This tab that scientists developed consists of two thin layers made of gold that has a silicon-based polymer known as polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) that is placed in between.
Although the energy that the triboelectric nanogenerator was not enough to charge a smartphone quickly, the researchers said that it lit forty-eight red LED lights simultaneously. Body movements, such as bending one’s finger, can generate electricity as it causes friction to occur between the PDMS and gold layers.
Another lead author of the study, professor Dr. Yun XU at the Chinese Academy of Science’s Institute of Semiconductors, said that this causes electrons to flow back and forth between the gold layers. The more friction, the greater the amount of power is produced.
Currently, the team are seeking to improve the performance of the tab during the next phase of their research; this will include using bigger pieces of gold. Another part of their research will be to create a portable battery that can store the energy that is made by the tab. Their research is currently published within the journal Nano Energy.
Although the rate that advances in tech are occurring today may suggest this could quickly become a reality, one should not expect this to be this year’s holiday gift. However, the future of tech gadgets that are powered using the human body could one day leave the world of science fantasy and arrive in the world of science fact.