When it comes to movement, we’re more used to expending energy than generating it. Petrol for cars, fuel for planes – even food for our bodies before and after exercise. However, researchers in the UK have designed a new device that could allow the humble act of walking to change the way we think about energy on the move and generate electricity from walking.
By placing a device – similar to a low-profile knee brace – around a person’s knee, researchers are able to harness the movement of the leg whilst performing everyday activities to create energy.
Comprised of two ring-like structures, placed one inside the other, as the knee bends the innermost ring rotates. This rotation plucks at small plectra in the channel of the outer ring, causing them to vibrate. This vibration then uses the piezoelectric effect to generate electricity.
At present, the British research team are currently only capable of producing around 2mw of energy from this new device, they are confident that with further experimentation this could be pushed up to around 30mw.
Whilst this won’t replace commercial energy any time soon, and may only have a fleeting impact on the energy we use as a whole, there are a vast amount of practical applications for such a device.
Medical science has already begun to rig the device up to heart-rate monitors, pedometers and accelerometers – allowing them to monitor a patients vital signs whilst they’re performing physiotherapy.
Military personnel would also be relieved of the heavy charging gear needed whilst on patrol; knowing that their radios and other electronic equipment were being charged whilst marching.
As much as many business-owners will likely now be pondering the possibilities of installing treadmills instead of desks to meet their commercial energy needs, it’s more likely the average commuter will find much more benefit whilst traveling to meetings.
After all, who wouldn’t want the security of knowing their laptop or mobile phone is being charged as they walk from the train to their client’s office?
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