Phones charged by voice
By Stuart Turton
Posted on 4 Dec 2008 at 16:31Researchers claim it will be possible to create smartphones that can be charged by nothing more than the spoken voice.
The breakthrough centres on the field of piezoelectricity. Piezoelectrics are materials, typically crystals or ceramics, that generate voltage when a form of mechanical stress is applied.
The technology is already used in a variety of gadgets, including watches and lighters, and the US military is currently looking at using the motion of its troops to power their devices.
However, the research conducted by professor Tahir Cagin of Texas A&M University, is looking at applying the technology at a nano level.
He has discovered that barium titanate crystals become 100 times more efficient at harvesting power when manufactured at precisely 21 nanometers. As materials at this size are more sensitive to environmental change, Cagin claims even sound waves could be used to generate power.
"Even the disturbances in the form of sound waves such as pressure waves in gases, liquids and solids may be harvested for powering nano and micro devices of the future if these materials are processed and manufactured appropriately for this purpose," Cagin says.
Among these devices, researchers envisage mobile phones, MP3s and even laptops benefiting. However, Cagin claims it could be "decades" before the technology is sophisticated enough for consumer use.
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