Menu
MIT wearable tech gives 'power walk' a whole new meaning

MIT wearable tech gives 'power walk' a whole new meaning

Charge up your fitness tracker with every step you take

Today's wearable devices are often used to track exercise and fitness, but what if those very actions served to power the devices as well? That could soon be possible thanks to new research from MIT.

Power has long been a limiting factor on wearables and other mobile devices, but MIT researchers announced this week that they have figured out a new way to turn small bending motions into energy.

Specifically, their technology uses two thin sheets of lithium alloys as electrodes, with a layer of porous polymer soaked with liquid electrolyte in between. When bent even just slightly, the layered composite produces a counteracting voltage and an electrical current in the external circuit between the two electrodes, which can be then used to power other devices.

Just a tiny weight attached to one end could cause the metal to bend as a result of ordinary movements, such as when strapped to an arm or leg, for example.

There have been other attempts to harness the power in small motions, but they've taken different approaches, the MIT researchers noted.

Specifically, most are based either on what's called the triboelectric effect -- essentially, friction, like when you rub a balloon against wool -- or piezoelectrics, using crystals that produce a small voltage when bent or compressed.

Such traditional approaches have "high electrical impedance and bending rigidity, and can be quite expensive,” said Ju Li, Battelle Energy Alliance Professor in Nuclear Science and Engineering and professor of materials science and engineering at MIT.

By using electrochemical principles instead, the new technology is capable of harvesting energy from a broader range of natural motions and activities, MIT said, including typical human-scale motions such as walking or exercising.

Not only could such devices likely be produced inexpensively at large scale, but they're also inherently flexible, making them more compatible with wearable technology and less likely to break under mechanical stress.

Indeed, test devices have proven highly stable, maintaining their performance after 1,500 cycles, Li said.

Other potential applications include biomedical devices or embedded stress sensors in roads, bridges or even keyboards, the researchers suggested.

Their work was described in an article published Wednesday in the journal Nature Communications.


Follow Us

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Featured

Slideshows

Meet the leading female front runners of the Kiwi channel

Meet the leading female front runners of the Kiwi channel

Reseller News honoured the leading female front runners of the New Zealand channel at the 2018 Women in ICT Awards (WIICTA) in Auckland. The awards honoured standout individuals across seven categories, spanning Entrepreneur; Innovation; Rising Star; Shining Star; Community; Technical and Achievement.

Meet the leading female front runners of the Kiwi channel
Meet the top performing customer-centric Microsoft channel partners

Meet the top performing customer-centric Microsoft channel partners

Microsoft honoured leading partners across the channel following a year of customer innovation and market growth in New Zealand. The 2018 Microsoft Partner Awards recognised excellence within the context of the end-user, spanning a host of emerging and established providers.

Meet the top performing customer-centric Microsoft channel partners
Reseller News launches new-look Awards at 2018 Judges’ Lunch

Reseller News launches new-look Awards at 2018 Judges’ Lunch

Introducing the Reseller News Innovation Awards, launched to the channel at the 2018 Judges’ Lunch in Auckland. With more than 70 judges now part of the voting panel, the new-look awards will reflect the changing dynamics of the channel, recognising excellence across customer value and innovation - spanning start-ups, partners, distributors and vendors.

Reseller News launches new-look Awards at 2018 Judges’ Lunch
Show Comments