Batteries R Us
Turning Motion into Energy
An engineering student’s alumni-funded research could turn you into a battery that keeps going—and going
What if you could recharge your cell phone just by walking to the office? As an undergraduate at the College of Engineering, Thomas Howe worked on a device that harvests low-frequency motion—human movement—and turns it into energy capable of powering electronic devices. In essence, it transforms people into their own chargers.
“Imagine a centimeter-scale harvester that could be incorporated into a cell phone case,” says Howe (ENG’13), who graduated in May. “As you walk, it extends your battery life by charging the phone up a little bit as you go.” Other possible applications: powering military radios and other small equipment with soldiers’ movements, powering implanted medical devices with the wearer’s motion, and detecting earthquake damage to buildings with built-in sensors powered by the quake itself.
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