May 10, 2011
Voice-Powered Mobile Phone Charger Reaches the Prototype Phase
Mobile phone users who consistently find themselves out of juice may soon have a natural remedy: their voice. Engineers in South Korea are in the process of developing an energy harvesting technique that converts sound into electricity. One such application of the technology may involve harnessing a mobile phone user's voice to power up their cell phone, according to the Telegraph.
Dr. Sang-Woo Kim and his colleagues from the Institute of Nanotechnology at Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul, South Korea have been looking for ways to scavenge energy from everyday environments – a source that he believes has been overlooked.
"This motivated us to realize power generation by turning sound energy from speech, music or noise into electrical power," Kim told the British paper.
"Sound power can be used for various novel applications including cellular phones that can be charged during conversations and sound-insulating walls near highways that generate electricity from the sound of passing vehicles," he added.
Kim designed a prototype technology that uses microscopic strands of zinc oxide that are placed in between two electrodes. When sound is introduced, the zinc oxide wires compress, release and vibrate against a sound absorbing pad. This process produces a small electrical current that is capable of providing energy to a rechargeable battery.
So far, the technology is only able to produce minimal amounts of electricity. The prototype converted 100 decibels of noise into about 50 millivolts of electricity, which is not enough to properly charge a mobile phone.
However, Kim believes that swapping out the zinc oxide wires for a more competent material should enable the team to create more energy from lower decibels of sound.
"Our current output performance can be applied to various electronic devices with low-power consumption such as self-powered sensors and body-implantable tiny devices. We believe that we can realize more efficient sound-driven nanogenerators," he told the Telegraph.
Beecher Tuttle is a TMCnet contributor. He has extensive experience writing and editing for print publications and online news websites. He has specialized in a variety of industries, including health care technology, politics and education. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Rich Steeves