New Devices Harvest Electricity from Human Movement

Scientists have created devices that collect energy produced by human locomotion. Their next goal is to improve efficiency so electricity can be collected and stored for later use. 

What's the Latest Development?


Devices that harvest human locomotion to power electrical devices and store excess energy are becoming a reality, potentially satisfying some of our species' growing energy demand. In the UK, researchers have built a leg brace which harvests electrons from the wearer's knee. When the knee bends, "four metal vanes in the device are 'plucked,' which then vibrate like a guitar string and produce electricity." And last month, scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory demonstrated a device that uses viruses to translate pressure into electricity using a phenomenon known as piezoelectricity. 

What's the Big Idea?

Currently, such technology is only good enough to power the harvesting device itself, meaning a commercial product will remain unavailable until excess electricity can be generated and stored for use at a later time. Berkeley scientists, whose device can produce 6 nanoamps of current and 400 millivolts of potential, have a goal of producing 50 to 70 nanoamps. To do this, they will use a virus that forms nanometer-scale structures on their own. "The virus material can also be sprayed onto a surface, potentially turning any wall or floor into an energy harvester from footsteps and vibrations."

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