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Human Gait Could Soon Power Portable Electronics


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Tom Krupenkin

University of Wisconsin-Madison engineering researchers Tom Krupenkin (above) and J. Ashley Taylor have discovered a novel energy-harvesting technology known as reverse electrowetting.

Credit: Courtesy of UW-Madison

The energy of human motion could be used soon to power cell phones and other portable electronic devices.

University of Wisconsin-Madison engineering researchers Tom Krupenkin and J. Ashley Taylor, who have discovered a novel energy-harvesting technology known as reverse electrowetting, are now working to commercialize the phenomenon through a company they have established called InStep NanoPower. In reverse electrowetting, mechanical energy is converted to electrical energy by using a micro-fluid device consisting of thousands of liquid micro-droplets interacting with a novel nano-structured substrate.

Krupenkin and Taylor believe the technology could enable a novel footwear-embedded energy harvester that captures energy produced by humans during walking and converts it into up to 20 watts of electrical power that can be used to power mobile devices. New energy is constantly generated during normal walking, so the energy harvester never needs to be recharged. The energy generated by the footwear-embedded harvester could be used to directly power devices, or the energy harvester can be integrated with a Wi-Fi hotspot that acts as an intermediary between mobile devices and a wireless network.

The technology is unlikely to completely replace batteries for most applications, but it could help reduce cost, pollution, and other problems associated with the use of batteries.

From University of Wisconsin-Madison
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