Skip to navigation
Latest News

"Mini-muscles" could fuel smartphones


By Stewart Mitchell

Posted on 7 Apr 2011 at 15:04

Scientists in New Zealand hope to overcome the perpetual shortage of battery life in smartphones with a system that harnesses power from human movement.

This idea of user-generated power for devices has been around for several years, with researchers touting wearable micro generators woven into fabric, but the beauty of the New Zealanders' approach is its simplicity.

They have developed a variable capacitor generator that harvests energy from the action of flexing and unflexing a rubber-like substance.

"Imagine soft generators that produce energy by flexing and stretching as they ride ocean waves or sway in the breeze like a tree," said Thomas McKay of the Auckland Bioengineering Institute's Biomimetics Lab."We've developed a low-cost power generator with an unprecedented combination of softness, flexibility, and low mass.”

The muscle-like materials used in these “dielectric elastomers” are capable of producing energy when deformed, but had previously relied on bulky external electronics to process the electricity.

"Our team eliminated the need for this external circuitry by integrating flexible electronics directly onto the artificial muscles themselves,” said McKay.

“One of the most exciting features of the generator is that it's so simple; it simply consists of rubber membranes and carbon grease mounted in a frame."

According to the scientists, their prototype device could be incorporated into clothing and harvest electricity from human movement, with the power fed into a mobile phone battery for storage.

Subscribe to PC Pro magazine. We'll give you 3 issues for £1 plus a free gift - click here
Be the first to comment this article

You need to Login or Register to comment.



Most Commented News Stories
Latest Blog Posts Subscribe to our RSS Feeds
Latest ReviewsSubscribe to our RSS Feeds
Latest Real World Computing


Sponsored Links

Your email:

Your password:

remember me


Hitwise Top 10 Website 2010

PCPro-Computing in the Real World Printed from

Register to receive our regular email newsletter at

The newsletter contains links to our latest PC news, product reviews, features and how-to guides, plus special offers and competitions.