The aftermath of hurricane Sandy has awakened us to a lot of realities. One of those is the need to be able to charge our electronic devices during a power outage. One of the coolest responses to that need is a revolutionary idea that may do away with the charging cable forever.
Researchers at Virginia Tech have been working on a new technology that’s just as cool as it is innovative. It’s called shake-to-charge technology. And if it makes it into production, you’ll be able to charge your phone and maybe even your tablet just by shaking it rapidly up and down.
The technology works by turning movement into energy. It’s called piezoelectric force and it can transfer pressure, acceleration or force into an electrical charge. And this charge can be generated by the movement your phone experiences when you type on the keypad, the decibels from your conversational voice or the acceleration from an angry shake after your 5th failed attempt to kill those piggies.
It sounds like space age technology but it works with zinc oxide, the compound you find in lots of household products like sun screen. It’s a natural piezoelectric material. And Shashank Priya and his team have been working with it for years to perfect its ability to turn energy into electricity when it vibrates.
Currently the technology is limited to short bursts of energy — the kind that you could use in an emergency situation like hurricane Sandy or when you find yourself stranded somewhere without juice. Shake it for a few minutes and the piezoelectric material will store enough energy for you to get a few quick calls out to check on family members, arrange a place to stay or tackle short-term problems.
But the technology is still new. The small piezoelectric materials that will sit behind your phone’s keypad won’t store enough energy to provide the power that most smartphones need for long-term use. However, the technology is still relatively new and it has big implications for the future.
Eventually your phone could be charged just through the movement it experiences in your pocket or purse. These perpetually-charging phones could do away with energy-inefficient phone chargers altogether and the collective energy that they use.
Priya and his team are also working on a few other innovative phone chargers. One is a micro wind-turbine charger that fits in a small container. When you hook your phone up to it, it generates watts once wind speeds reach up to 8 km/h. Hook your phone up to it and you can charge your phone in as little as 45 minutes.
Unfortunately, there’s no word out on exactly when these new technologies will be hitting the market. In the meantime, why not check out the cheap unlocked phones available at GSM Nation. As you read this, smartphone manufacturers are extending battery life for some of the best battery life in the industry.