Clean Power researchers develop kinetic energy harvester to power portable electronics

Published on August 24th, 2011 | by Tina Casey


One Step Closer to Clean Kinetic Energy for Your iPAD

August 24th, 2011 by  

researchers develop kinetic energy harvester to power portable electronicsKinetic energy harvesters that could power electronic devices simply by walking have been in the hopper for a while now, and it finally seems to be on the verge of breaking into the commercial market. That means, in the near future, anybody with a cell phone, iPAD or any other electronic device will never have to worry about batteries again. At least, not as long as they keep moving. A research team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has come up with an energy-harvesting device that captures the clean, renewable energy generated by practically anyone merely walking down the street – a democratic approach to power if there ever was one.

Converting Kinetic Energy to Electricity through Electrowetting

The new technology is based on a previous Wisconsin U. development in the field of “electrowetting.” Electrowetting is a means of converting mechanical energy to electricity by using thousands of tiny liquid droplets that interact with a nano-engineered substrate. The new technology, which comes under the general heading of microfluidics (the study of how fluids behave on a micro or nano-scale), could be embedded in shoes or boots to capture energy that would otherwise be lost as heat. The researchers estimate that it could generate up to 20 watts of electrical power, more than enough to power standard portable electronic devices.

The Knights Who Say Knee! to Kinetic Energy

Shoe-based kinetic energy harvesters are also under development at Louisiana Tech University, and other technologies for mobile renewable energy harvesting are also moving forward. Canadian soldiers have been testing a device that is mounted on a carbon fiber knee brace, consisting of a gearbox and generator. Across the pond, the University of Leeds has been studying the range of potentials for harvesting kinetic energy from soldiers on the march, and researchers at the University of Bolton have developed a lightweight fiber that could harvest energy from the elements as well as kinetic energy from body movements.

Clean Power for Portable Electronics

Kinetic energy is not the only kind of clean, renewable energy that can be generated on the go. Add an element of miniaturization to the solar power backpacks currently being tested by U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, and you’ve got the makings of a sea change in the way we generate and use power for our portable electronics. The electronics user of the future will be far less dependent on batteries, and will contribute far less to the carbon footprint involved in manufacturing and disposing of batteries.

Image: Walking person by 050com on

Follow Tina Casey on Twitter @TinaMCasey 
Get CleanTechnica’s 1st (completely free) electric car report → “Electric Cars: What Early Adopters & First Followers Want.”
Keep up to date with all the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our (free) cleantech newsletter, or keep an eye on sector-specific news by getting our (also free) solar energy newsletter, electric vehicle newsletter, or wind energy newsletter.


Tags: , , , , , ,

About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

  • this sound pretty cool, i heard they were making a device for an iphone? to charge when you walk?

Back to Top ↑
  • Advertisements

  • Top Posts & Pages

  • Cool Cleantech Events

    Low Voltage Electrification Event, April 25-27. Detroit, Michigan (US)
    Delve deep into the benefits and challenges associated with EV power supply.

    Offshore Wind Market Development USA, May 11-12, Boston, Massachusetts (US)
    Network and establish your business in one of North America’s largest energy industries.

    Energy Storage USA, June 15-16, San Diego, California (US)
    Only event in the United States focused exclusively on the commercialization of storage.

    More details are on: Cleantech Events.

  • Advertisement

  • CleanTechnica Electric Car Report

    Electric Cars Early Adopters First Followers
  • Tesla Model 3 Review by EVANNEX

    Tesla Model 3 Review from EVANNEX
  • Tesla Model 3 Exclusive Video

    Tesla Model 3 Video
  • Tesla Model 3 Exclusive Pictures

    Tesla Model 3 Video
  • Tesla Model X Review #1 (Video)

    Tesla Model X Review from new owners Zach Shahan
  • Tesla Model X Review #2 (Pictures)

    Tesla Model X Review from Kyle Field
  • Tesla Model S Long-Term Review

    Tesla Model S Long Term Review from Kyle Field
  • Nissan LEAF Long-Term Review

    Nissan LEAF Long Term Review from Cynthia Shahan
  • Interview with Michael Liebreich

    Interview with Michael Liebreich
  • Interview with Akon (Teslas & Solar)

    Interview with Akon Tesla Model S Tesla Model X Solar Power Africa
  • Interview with Dr Nawal Al-Hosany

    Interview with Dr Nawal Al-Hosany
  • Interview with Gro Brundtland

    Gro Brundtland
  • Interview with President of Iceland

    President of Iceland Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson
  • Interview with Nick Sampson

    Faraday Future VP Nick Sampson
  • Interview with Dipal Barua

    Dipal Barua 1st ZFEP WInner
  • Interview with Jonathon Porritt

    Jonathon Porritt
  • Interview with Clint Wilder

    Interview with Clint Wilder
  • Interviews with Solar Impulse Pilots

    Bertrand Piccard Andre Borschberg
  • Check out more CleanTechnica Videos.

  • Join The Solar Revolution!

    Edison-solar-energy solar-energy-spill-nice-day
  • Cost of Solar Panels

  • Search the IM Network