Human gait could soon power portable electronics

August 24, 2011

Shoe power (credit: Krupenkin, T. & Taylor, J. A.)

A new energy-harvesting technology that could capture the energy of human motion to power portable electronics has been developed by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The “reverse electrowetting” technology that promises to reduce our dependence on batteries. It convertsĀ  mechanical energy to electrical energy using a microfluidic device consisting of thousands of liquid micro-droplets interacting with a novel nano-structured substrate.

This technology could capture energy produced by humans during walking that is normally lost as heat and convert it into up to 20 watts of electrical power that can be used to power mobile electronic devices, the researchers said. Unlike a traditional battery, the energy harvester never needs to be recharged, since the new energy is constantly generated during the normal walking process.

The energy generated by the harvester can be used to power a broad range of devices, from smartphones and laptops to radios, GPS units, night-vision goggles, and flashlights.

Ref.: Tom Krupenkin & J. Ashley Taylor, Reverse electrowetting as a new approach to high-power energy harvesting, Nature Communications, 2011; [DOI:10.1038/ncomms1454]