Backpack Generates Power from Walking
Take a green, Carectomy-friendly pursuit (walking), add technology (piezoelectric fabric), and suddenly carectomy patients become free-standing personal power plants.
Engineers from Michigan Technological University, Arizona State, and NanoSonic Inc. are teaming up to create a walker-powered backpack. Static electricity that builds up from a walking person’s shoulders rubbing against the backpack (and is typically wasted) provides the juice. It’s like free power: there’s no extra user effort and other than the materials that go into making the fabric and perhaps the storage batteries, no resources are used to create the energy
The backpack’s straps, which feel just like nylon, are made from polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF). The material harnesses the static electricity created by the user’s walking motion. This power can either be used directly by electronic devices or stored in batteries for later use.
The technology is being developed with military applications in mind. A soldier carrying a 100-pound load and walking at 2-3 miles per hour would generate 45.6 milliwatts of power. To put this into context, an LED headlamp consumes about 38mW, an iPod nano 46mW, and a Motorola Razr cell phone 9mW in standby mode and 360mW while talking.
Developers envision users predominantly accumulating power over long walks, storing it, and feeding it in short bursts to devices when necessary (radios, GPS systems, etc.). However, I like the concept of continually feeding something like a nano on my excursions. As soon as I saw the number breakdown, and the .4 mW deficit between typical power generation and the nano’s consumption, my competitive streak already started prodding me to walk faster. And the product is still a long way from delivery!
As the piezoelectric technology expands to include other wearable generators, so will the peak output of your own personally-generated power plant. Picture a Royal Tennebaums
style jumpsuit swooshing its way to portable gadget energy self-sufficiency.
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