Northwestern students win $75,000 for device that recharges smartphones [Chicago Tribune :: ]
(Chicago Tribune (IL) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) April 06--A device that uses kinetic energy to recharge smartphone batteries, invented by three students at Northwestern University, won a $75,000 award at Thursday's Clean Energy Trust Competition.
Called myPower, the device can generate up to six hours of life for a smartphone battery. Lightweight, it connects with a smartphone via cable.
"We are all runners and we are all smartphone users so we asked ourselves why can't we use these calories we burn while running to charge our smartphones," said Alexander Smith.
Walking 10,000 steps, or 4.5 miles, can generate three hours of extra battery life; 40 minutes of running or 60 minutes of biking can generate six extra hours, Smith said.
MyPower can also be used to track the amount of energy a person produces and the number of steps the wearer has taken. The device has a smartphone application that allows it to integrate with social media.
The three inventors are Ph.D. candidates in materials science and engineering. Smith, Michael Geier and Tejas Shastry came up with the idea during a university course in clean energy entrepreneurship.
The wearable technology market is expected to grow to more than $14 billion in the next six years, according to Smith. "There are other portable generators, but none of those that are on the market right now can fit your pocket," he said.
Smith, 28, said the award money will be used to continue testing and to line up a manufacturer. More than 500 people signed up for pilot devices at myPower's website, runwithmypower.com.
He estimates the device will retail between $60 and $80. The manufacturing cost is estimated at about $12, Smith said.
The audience responded to the myPower presentation with long applause.
"Some of the teams clearly transcended the title of student team. They seem like more mature early stage company presentations," said Judge Mil Ovan, chief marketing officer at Navitas Systems.
"There were several good companies; in particular, myPower was a very good one," he said.
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