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10 Exotic Human-Energy Harvesting Devices And Technologies

In his remarkable 1965 novel Dune, Frank Herbert creates the idea of a stillsuit, which harvests the mechanical energy of the ordinary movements of the body to conserve (and recycle) the water used by the body. This technique is sometimes called "passive energy harvesting", to distinguish it from activities like walking in a circle and pushing a turnstile to power a water wheel. Herbert's novel introduced this idea to many readers, although the general idea has been around since at least the late eighteenth century, when self-winding watches powered like a pedometer from walking were created.

Here are ten different passive energy harvesting devices and technologies, in differing stages of prototyping and application; click through to learn more about each one.

Backpack Generator Harnesses Power Of Walking

A backpack generator designed by Lawrence Rome and colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania is able to convert the vigorous strides of hikers into more than 7 watts of usable power.


(Backpack Generator worn by Lawrence Rome)

Nanogenerator Harvests Mechanical Energy

A nanogenerator produces a continuous flow of electricity by harvesting mechanical energy from a variety of sources, including ultrasonic waves, mechanical movement or even blood flow.


(Prototype DC nanogenerator closeup)

Vibration Energy Scavenging By Tiny Generator

A masterpiece of Vibration Energy Scavenging, this tiny (less than one cubic centimeter) device would have a variety of uses.


(Tiny generator with vibration energy scavenging)

Flexible Integrated Energy Device (FIED) - Wearable Rechargers

"It will look like an ordinary garment but have extraordinary capabilities. As the person wearing the garment moves, the vibrations they create can be harvested and channeled into recharging the battery or powering plug-in electronic device or devices."


(Flexible Integrated Energy Device (FIED))

Breath Powered USB Charger (And Stillsuit)

The device scavenges power from your breathing and lets you keep the power as electricity for USB devices.


(Breath powered USB recharger)

Biomechanical Energy Harvester Is The Bee's Knees

A Biomechanical energy harvesting device consisting of an aluminum chassis and a generator disguised as a knee brace provide enough power to run your iPhone.


(Biomechanical energy harvester device)

Piezoelectric Zinc Oxide Nanowire Fashions For Spring

The resulting current flow from many fiber pairs woven into a shirt or jacket could allow the wearer's body movement to power a range of portable electronic devices.


(Piezoelectric zinc oxide nanowires)

NTT Energy-Generating Shoes Are Squishy

NTT is developing electricity-generating shoes that generate power from walking. These green shoes generate 1.2 watts of electricity.


(NTT electricity generating shoes)

Implantable Energy-Harvesting Rubber Sheets

Energy-harvesting rubber sheets that are implanted in the body may power pacemakers and even mobile phones.


(Energy-harvesting rubber sheet)

Nanogenerator Intros New Energy Unit - The Pinch

The latest improvements have resulted in a nanogenerator powerful enough to drive commercial liquid-crystal displays, light-emitting diodes and laser diodes.


(Nanogenerator)

Energy-Harvesting Shoes With Reverse Electrowetting

Power your phone or iPad with the power of walking! Engineering researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have described a new energy-harvesting technology that could be embedded in your shoes.


(Schematics of three major droplet actuation mechanisms)

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