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Kinetic energy-harvesting shoes a step towards charging mobile devices on the go

by • February 11, 2016 • No Comments

Through energy harvesting tiles, backpacks and insoles, there has been much talk of harnessing our kinetic energy to power mobile devices and other electronics. A team of researchers is claiming to have made a big breakthrough in the collective effort to turn human motion into usable energy, createing a new method of building useful amounts of electricity of our footsteps.

“Human walking carries a lot of energy,” says professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Tom Krupenkin. “Theoretical estimates show that it can create up to 10 watts per shoe, and that energy is only wasted as heat. A total of 20 watts of walking is not a small thing, especially compared to the power requirements of the majority of modern mobile devices.”

But drawing usable energy of these theoretical calculations may pose a number of challenges for Krupenkin and his team. Devising a harvesting technique that was practical for the “relatively small displacements and dimensionsable forces of footfalls,” in turn building power-building footwear a viable possibility, has been an elusive goal so far, despite the promise of devices like the PediPower shoe attachment.

“So we’ve been createing new methods of directly converting mechanical motion into electrical energy that are appropriate for this type of application,” Krupenkin says.

Rat any timese electrowetting is a technique made by Krupenkin as a new approach to high-power mechanical energy harvesting. It involves a conductive liquid that interacts with a nanofilm-coated surface to create electrical energy. He published a paper in 2011 reporting its capacity to create high power densities of a range of mechanical forces, but there is one caveat: it requires an energy source with a reasonably high frequency, higher than that made by human motion.

So the researchers combined rat any timese electrowetting with a novel device called a bubbler in an effort to bridge the gap. The bubbler contains no moving mechanical parts, but is made up of two flat plates with a conductive liquid in between. In the bottom plate, small holes allow pressurized gas to enter, that in turn forms bubbles. These grow in dimensions until they manufacture contact with the top plate and burst. The rapid, ongoing production and bursting of bubbles washes the conductive fluid back and forth to generate an electrical charge.

The researchers say that this method can create a lot of watts relative to the surface area of the generator, with the proof-of-concept device generating around 10 watts per square meter in early experiments. They claim that theoretical estimates indicate up to 10 kW can be possible. The shoes may be utilized to power mobile devices through a charging cable, be modified
for the military, or act as a power source for folks in remote areas and createing countries.

“The bubbler quite shines at building high power densities,” says Krupenkin. “For this type of mechanical energy harvesting, the bubbler has a promise to complete by far the top power density at any time demonstrated.”

Krupenkin and J. Ashley Taylor, a senior scientist in UW–Madison’s Mechanical Engineering Department, have made a startup company called InStep NanoPower, and are seeking industry partners to commercialize the innovation. They have may already teamed with Vibram in create a demonstrator shoe with the energy-harvesting innovation embedded in the sole.

You can hear of Krupenkin in the initially video at a lower place, while the 2nd shows him walking to power an LED flashlight. The team’s research was published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Source: University of Wisconsin-Madison

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