A fun new technology that harvests power from a small generator embedded in the sole of your shoe has been developed by Dr. Ville Kaajakari at Louisiana Tech University (LTU).
The technology cannot power your house (yet), but it can be used for a range of useful purposes.
“This technology could benefit, for example, hikers that need emergency location devices or beacons,” said Kaajakari. “For more general use, you can use it to power portable devices without wasteful batteries.”
Kaajakari’s breakthrough technology uses a low-cost polymer transducer with metalized surfaces for electrical contact. Conventionally, ceramic transducers would be used, but given that they might not be comfortable or durable in the sole of your shoe, Kaajakari went with this soft and robust alternative that matches the properties of regular shoe fillings. Rather than putting a heel shock absorber in, this is put in and will supposedly create the same user experience (in other words, you wouldn’t notice the difference).
“Kaajakari’s innovative technology, developed at Louisiana Tech’s Institute for Micromanufacturing (IfM), is based on new voltage regulation circuits that efficiently convert a piezoelectric charge into usable voltage for charging batteries or for directly powering electronics,” LTU reports.
Currently, the technology could not generate enough power to power very energy-intensive equipment, but eventually, in addition to being able to power sensors, GPS units or portable devices that don’t require a large amount of energy, Kaajakari hopes the technology will be able to create enough energy to power or charge common portable devices like cell phones.
If you keep up with clean tech news like this, you’ve probably seen this sort of “piezoelectric energy generation” thing before. So, why aren’t such technologies on the market yet? Well, piezoelectric energy generation doesn’t seem to be worth what it takes to make it happen in many cases. Dr. Kaajakari’s breakthrough technology is being featured in MEMS Investor Journal, a national online industry publication that informs investment professionals about latest developments in the micro electro mechanical systems (MEMS) industry, so perhaps some investors will see it and help it to move into a more prolific place.
Image Credit: Louisiana Tech University