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The Knights Who Say Knee Power: Canadian Forces Follow in the Footsteps of Monty Python

knights who say knee might have been referring to knee braces that double as kinetic energy harvestersWhen the Monty Python crew dreamed up an all-powerful word that sounds like “Knee!” little did they know that not too many years later  a power-generating knee would emerge from the sustainability shrubbery, so to speak.  The new clean energy device, a product of the startup company Bionic Power, Inc., is being field-tested by Canadian soldiers. Think of a knee brace that lets you charge up your portable electronics simply by walking, and you get the idea.

Lightening the Load on Infantry

Modern infantry carries a load of power-gobbling gizmos in addition to traditional gear, which means an ever-increasing load of batteries must be schlepped around, too. The logistics of battery supply, portage and disposal are becoming unsustainable and the Canadian army is certainly not alone in its quest for clean, harvestable energy on-the-go. The University of Leeds is studying a similar device as part of a “battery-free soldier” plan that will enable British soldiers to shed some weight, and the U.S. military has also been looking into replacing batteries with lightweight solar energy kits among other things. Research is also being done into integrating kinetic and solar energy harvesters into t-shirts and other fabric items.

Harvesting Energy from Your Knee

Bionic Power’s device is a carbon fiber brace rigged up with a gearbox and generator, which convert the relatively slow speed of your knee flexing while walking into a range that is high enough to generate electricity. At a relatively modest 1.7 pounds, the device generates about twelve watts of electricity [see comment below for update], enough replace at least some of 28 pounds of batteries that the typical Canadian soldier has to carry on a 72-hour mission, according to the company. As for the rest of us, if the new technology proves itself for military use it won’t be long before a bit of the ol’ Monty Python knee-power hits the consumer market, too.

Image: Knight by publicenergy on

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Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.


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