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Mobile Devices of the Future Will Get Energy From Everywhere Except the Wall Socket

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A piece of thermoelectric fabric.

Clothes made from thermoelectric nanomaterials would generate power slowly, throughout the day.

Credit: Wake Forest University

Scientists are advancing new wireless methods of harvesting power from the environment, people, and devices themselves that will not interfere with everyday activities.

One approach to wireless power is thermoelectricity, in which electrons create a current through temperature change. Because the human body is a consistent source of heat, companies are beginning to release thermoelectric clothing, shoes, and sleeping bags that can charge devices. However, harvesting thermoelectric heat for electricity is slow and inefficient and because it generates more electricity through large temperature differences, power slows considerably when the surrounding air temperature is close to body temperature. As a result, thermoelectricity is not the best option for devices that use a lot of power, but might be ideal for devices such as fitness trackers and embedded medical monitors.

Another approach is piezoelectricity, through which materials such as quartz create electricity when agitated so they vibrate at a target frequency. Piezoelectricity can theoretically capture unlimited available energy, but attuning piezoelectric materials to specific frequencies can be challenging and current materials cannot obtain enough energy for mobile computers.

Biomechanical energy uses body motion to move small power generators, but the technology is currently bulky and perhaps inconvenient.

Another wireless power technology is mobile solar power, through which certain materials create electricity when exposed to sunlight.

From Quartz
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Abstracts Copyright © 2014 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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