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Power Hardware

Researchers Build Wearable Generators 84

Posted by samzenpus
from the power-from-the-people dept.
schliz writes "From the itnews article: 'Bioengineers from the University of Auckland have developed cheap, lightweight rubber power generators that could harvest up to a Watt of power if embedded in shoes. The researchers built on "dielectric elastomer generator" technology that used the movements of a flexible, non-conductive material to build up charge in attached electrodes.'"
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Researchers Build Wearable Generators

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  • Help power cars? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by froggymana (1896008)

    I wonder if something like this could be embedded in the tires of a car to help generate electricity to power it self. Would it actually be able to generate enough electricity to make it worthwhile for an electric car though?

    • by QBasicer (781745) on Sunday April 10, 2011 @03:45PM (#35775602) Homepage Journal

      I wonder if something like this could be embedded in the tires of a car to help generate electricity to power it self. Would it actually be able to generate enough electricity to make it worthwhile for an electric car though?

      Unfortunately, the extra energy you'd get out of the generators would be provided by the engine (conservation of energy). You'd only get a benefit if the car was coasting downhill by turning the potential energy into electric energy. Since energy conversion isn't 100% efficient, you'd actually lose energy and be further behind in the process.

      • by westlake (615356)

        You'd only get a benefit if the car was coasting downhill by turning the potential energy into electric energy.

        If you are coasting downhill, it seems to me that what you really need is power for the steering and the brakes.

        • by bmo (77928) on Sunday April 10, 2011 @04:28PM (#35775798)

          What we need is to find a way to coast uphill without having to coast downhill.

          I've got it.

          Put a magnet on the end of a pole in front of the car. It'll pull itself up a hill!

          http://27.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_laxcr841Fm1qewll0o1_500.jpg [tumblr.com]

          --
          BMO

          • by Anonymous Coward

            What we need is to find a way to coast uphill without having to coast downhill.

            My grandfather walked to school uphill both ways. And it was always snowing.

            I suggest we look for the opposite of this area, perhaps on the other side of the world, and then we all can start coasting downhill on all our errands we go and it will always be nice and sunny:)

          • by SeaFox (739806)

            Damn you! I saw that same pic once and saved it thinking "This will come in handy someday, on Slashdot most likely".

        • by QBasicer (781745)
          Unless you used that energy to recharge some capacitors or batteries or something useful. Even if that power went into the electrical system directly there'd be less of a demand on the engine and thusly use less fuel.
      • The rubber in the tires is compressing anyway. unless this generating material is more flexible than car tire material, then I see it as capturing energy that would be lost with out it.

    • These could be placed in the shoes of the secret service men who run along the President's car. Finally, a president who drives a hybrid!
    • one would assume that any energy created would create some drag co-efficient somewhere.. may act to cool the tires a bit though.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      For cars there is already something similar, at least in F1. KERS: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KERS

      It has a questionable benefit for road cars though, considering the difference in forces.

    • by arielCo (995647)

      If you meant "to power itself" literally:

      The extra energy generated from the tires would have to come at no cost from the engine. That is known as a perpetual motion [wikipedia.org] machine, which violates the principle of conservation of energy (free lunch out of nowhere).

      Now, if you meant "have some extra power for accessories and the like":

      When tires roll they get hot, partly from the energy wasted flexing and un-flexing the rubber, which is not perfectly resilient. Any energy drawn out of this cycle would ultimately be

    • What about embedding it in the road itself? Roads flex from cars driving over them, if this stuff could be made cheaply, laying down sheets of it under the road surface might generate a lot of power. If a person walking generates a single watt, thousands of cars weighing thousands of pounds theoretically would produce an exponential increase on that. Power transport would be an issue over this type of design, but it could be done every few miles so it generates just enough power to power the street light
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Bioengineers from the University of Auckland have developed cheap, lightweight rubber power generators that could harvest up to a Watt of power if embedded in shoes.

    One watt and then if you want another watt you have to buy some more shoes? I can't see it catching on.

    • by bemymonkey (1244086) on Sunday April 10, 2011 @04:38PM (#35775840)

      A watt can recharge an entire smartphone battery in 1-2 hours... I'd welcome a pair of shoes that provides me with a Watt of power when I walk around.

      • by Simon80 (874052)
        I wish you were right, but if you take a 1500mAH battery at 3.7V, and assume 100% efficiency in charging, it's more like 5 and a half hours, and I'm guessing that's not a valid assumption.
        • Ah crap, you're right... for some reason I was going Watts=>Amps at 1:1 - *facepalm*.

          Ouch.

          It would charge, just slowly - or keep the battery from draining when in use. 1W (~270mA) is around the average amount my Desire draws in active use (screen on low brightness, online via 3G)...

    • by TD-Linux (1295697) on Sunday April 10, 2011 @06:08PM (#35776352)

      One watt and then if you want another watt you have to buy some more shoes? I can't see it catching on.

      A watt is a unit of power, not energy. The lifetime of the shoes is unspecified. Speaking of a watt, that's a lot of power for an energy harvester like this, and sounds too good to be true - because it is. The article only shows a 10mW generator, though that is still enough for periodic radio transmissions. Also, I would guess because it is electrostatic in operation, it would also work as a fairly large capacitor for temporarily storing the energy.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Now all I need are 2,000 people jogging around my house and I'm set.

  • by 1s44c (552956) on Sunday April 10, 2011 @03:59PM (#35775672)

    If you wear these walking will become 1 watt harder.

    • by hedwards (940851)

      Not really most people bounce a bit when they walk, and the knees end up having to absorb the wasted energy, may as well absorb at least some of it and put it to good use.

    • The only real sensible non-intrusive human power generation I've seen was based on catching your knee joint as it extended to take the next step.

      Normally when you extend your leg out, your muscles "catch" your lower leg so you don't snap it out against the joint's limit. By having a device hinged on your knee to slow your shin down instead, you do only half of that cycle of work, and also generate some electrical power at the same time.

    • by wamatt (782485) *

      Not obvious.

      Because it may reduce heat / sound energy emanating from your shoe by 1Watt.

      • by 1s44c (552956)

        Not obvious.

        Because it may reduce heat / sound energy emanating from your shoe by 1Watt.

        Things can be obvious even if they are not true.

    • That is true, no free energy. Like walking on sand. Each step would expend more energy, that is unless it is taking over a normal function of the shoe that was disapating that much energy in heat, sound, wear. If that is the case then it could be that the walking will not be any harder.

  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@h a c k i sh.org> on Sunday April 10, 2011 @04:05PM (#35775694)

    This might be a new advance, but it's hard to tell. Here [slashdot.org] is a Slashdot story from 2001 with basically the same "researchers find a way to make shoes generate power" line.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      We can call this an advance purely because of the numbers they're reporting--according to the 2001 article. While then they reported 0.0013W generated, now we're seeing one whole watt. Quite the improvement, and it can actually be used for things!

    • by Hultis (1969080)
      So, would these shoes be sole-ar powered?

      That one made me laugh, thanks kafka93 (ten years later)!
    • by binkzz (779594)

      Maybe they got lost in time, and have been trying to get together 1.21 billion Chinese people to wear these shoes so they can get back.

      Just a thought..

      • After all, a Jiggawatt is clearly not a Gigawatt. It might be the old definition of a Gibiwatt prior to those nifty genii who came up with a power of two friendly version of the metric system. Of course, it could also be that Douglas Adams was involved with the script indirectly and it's somehow based on base 13.
  • by bmo (77928) on Sunday April 10, 2011 @04:14PM (#35775740)

    ...it's perfect for a gag.

    Hook this up to a pack of capacitors and I can go 'round zapping people, at random, without any need to find any woolen carpets to shuffle my feet across.

    "Hi, Bob, that's a nice tray of cmos chips ya got there." *zap*

    --
    BMO

    • by yelvington (8169)

      Or rig the capacitors to discharge back into the shoe. Perpetual motion!

      • by bmo (77928)

        Put the shoes on a wheel (discard the tire) and mount to a car. All you'll need are brakes! It'll be like GTAIV with friction turned off!

        --
        BMO

  • Perhaps with enough of these the olympics could power itself...
  • This idea was thought up in the 70's, and probably long before that.
  • The title is misleading. From TFA: “What we want to work towards is something that’s wearable ... but that might be a few years away yet.”
  • Regenerative breaking for people!
  • inventing stillsuits. Add a bit of spice and we're set!
  • [BZZZZzzzzzzzt!] GAaaaaaaaaaAAaAaaAAh!
  • Old news, but personal power generation has been around for quite a while.
    See http://www.slate.com/id/2193827/ [slate.com]

  • For this to work in any way we would have to get people walking somewhere.
  • Could see setting ribbons of the things fluttering in ocean currents and rivers...somewhat less harmful to the fish, I reckon; they've dealt with fluttering seaweed a lot longer than they have turbine blades.

The test of intelligent tinkering is to save all the parts. -- Aldo Leopold

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