For as smart as our phones have become, the battery life and charging constraints are pretty dumb. If you’re not a classically trained ‘always prepared’ Boy Scout that brings your charger everywhere, a dead phone has been a frequent foe. The phone taps out at the most inopportune times; when you really need to talk to someone, when you run into your favorite celebrity, or when you really need to play Angry Birds. Even if you brought your charger along, where are you going to find an outlet? Most establishments guard their electricity like L.A. Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick guards the net. Lucky for us, we live in the 21st century, a magical time where outlets will soon be a thing of the past.
Motion based energy harvesters aren’t new, but wearable models are. Scientists from around globe are working to create shirts, pants, and even shoes with built in generators that create electricity from our everyday motions. These wearable energy harvesters use ‘soft generators’ to produce and store power. Unlike their bulky predecessors, these generators are lightweight, soft and flexible. They are modeled after human muscles, flexing and bending and grabbing previously wasted energy.
Other Forms of Wearable Energy
Though unprecedented, these soft generators are just one form of wearable energy harvesting on the horizon. There are other groups working on wearable solar panels, wearable piezoelectrics that feed on vibrations, and NASA has even been working to implement technology into the suits of astronauts to power their complex gadgets via their movements in space.
While being able to wear your phone charger is cool, the technology has implications that reach much further. These notably affordable and slim devices can theoretically be unleashed anywhere there is movement to be harvested. While current wave powered generators are effective, they’re expensive and don’t harvest as much usable energy as they should be able to. The idea of implementing these new soft generators in the oceans and in high wind volume areas has been seriously discussed. Finally, if we can eliminate traditional batteries, we’ll save precious materials over the long term and cut back on tough-to-dispose-of waste.
Wearable energy harvesters have become necessary for our 21st century lifestyles. It’d be nice to see this technology take off and lead to a diversified product line that includes outfits for our high energy pets and devices that clip onto the wheels of our bikes and cars. The technology we have at our disposal these days is magical, it’s only fitting that our energy collection and distribution methods possess some magic as well.
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