Matter & Energy
The fad of wearable devices has brought us lots of exciting new technology, from the Fitbit to Apple Watch. It’s great to be able to sport your favorite electronic toy on your wrist as a fashion statement. But the potential for these devices could be much greater if they were able to harvest the energy from human motion—walking, finger tapping, even breathing—and use it as their power source. Imagine being able to measure your heart rate or body temperature with a single flick of the wrist, or power your smart watch with your shoe!
In this time of rapid global climate change, research has focused on finding sustainable energy sources. Current technologies like wind and solar can generate power in an ecofriendly manner; however, generation of this energy can be intermittent at times. To offset this, power storage devices can make power accessible on demand.
If you own your own house, you may have opted to cover your roof in solar panels. Who wouldn’t prefer to get the electricity they need from “clean” renewable energy, independent of the power company? But to do so is something of a privilege reserved for homeowners with the resources to install the latest solar cell technology. Those of us living in apartments rely on the electrical grid to deliver power to our floor lamps and refrigerators—and the grid still relies primarily on the energy from fossil fuels.
Advances in nano-size materials promise to allow even smaller electronic products, and also with faster performance.
Humans consume large amounts of energy for transporting goods, running our industries, bringing comfort to our homes, and powering our cities. In the United States, a majority of the energy consumed comes from petroleum, natural gas, and coal. 91% of the coal goes towards generating electric power; however, it also increases production of greenhouse gasses.
In the future, energy from our bodies will be stored in small-size portable battery, by something known as “Triboelectric generators”, which are basically power converters. They generate small amounts of electrical power from mechanical movements, like rotation, sliding, vibration, walking, or finger tapping.