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Self-Powered Parts Are the Future

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the just-make-the-factory-self-powering dept.

Power 101

bossanovalithium writes that an umbrella group including Japanese heavyweights like Panasonic and Toyota is working on bringing the price of self powered parts down to levels where they can be mass produced: "The idea is that the parts will make external power sources redundant — because they can convert energy from body heat, light and vibrations straight into electricity. Self powered electronics have already sporadically been used in technology like wall-mount remote control units for air conditioners, says Nikkei, but existing parts are bulky and cost a couple thousand yen a piece. 3,000 yen is about $35 — which means they're not the best bet, financially, yet."

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101 comments

Parts (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33489428)

Anyone else read the headline as "Self-powered pants are the future"? FP!

Re:Parts (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33489442)

Anyone else read the headline as "Self-powered pants are the future"? FP!

No, your i-can't-read jokes aren't funny. They're lame. Predictable. Stupid.

Re:Parts (1)

Zider (211890) | more than 3 years ago | (#33489884)

I thought it was funny, so you're wrong there.

Re:Parts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33490000)

I thought it was funny, so you're wrong there.

you perceive it as wrong there when an old, repetitive, predictable, rehashed joke that was never much to begin with isn't funny. this is evidence that some people have a low-brow, base, unrefined sense of humor and will laugh at anything just to parrot a meme and feel like part of a group. how sad.

when you fulfill your need to socialize outside of slashdot you'll lose the need to fit in with a group as if you were some awkward nerd in high school. then you'll have new eyes to see how lame and repetitive the memes really are. then you'll wonder why you ever thought they were so funny. then you'll understand how powerful your need to belong to something really was and how it warped and distorted even your sense of what is funny.

Re:Parts (0, Flamebait)

Aranykai (1053846) | more than 3 years ago | (#33490524)

When you mature you'll lose the need to criticize others in order to bolster your pathetic self esteem.

Re:Parts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33491000)

When you mature you'll lose the need to criticize others in order to bolster your pathetic self esteem.

So we will maintain hope that one day you will stop criticizing other people's maturity. Until then, hang in there man!

Re:Parts (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#33494190)

No, they would be the Wrong Trousers.

Prepare yourself... (0, Offtopic)

macraig (621737) | more than 3 years ago | (#33489510)

... for the coming wave of self-powered penis enhancement spam.

Re:Prepare yourself... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33491984)

Was I the only person who misread the headline as "Self-Powered Pants Are the Future"?

Not quite right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33489512)

When you use body heat, your external power source doesn't disappear -- it becomes food.

Re:Not quite right (2, Insightful)

whrde (1120405) | more than 3 years ago | (#33489594)

The story is not about a magical new source of infinite energy. It's about not having to build, integrate, connect and maintain an external power supply.

Re:Not quite right (1)

binarylarry (1338699) | more than 3 years ago | (#33490350)

Right, so when your power supply goes... you get to rebuy the entire device!

Yay for consumers!

Re:Not quite right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33490890)

So you're saying people will be willing to spend $2 and 5 min to eat an extra burger each day, so they don't have to spend 5 sec to connect their gadget?

Re:Not quite right (1)

steeleyeball (1890884) | more than 3 years ago | (#33495410)

An extra burger? That's funny. Most people on this continent don't need extra food they need extra exercise; the motion of which will power the device.

Re:Not quite right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33490092)

From halfbakery.com

Hp for Horse, hp for hamster.
Assume hamster can pull 2oz at 1 ft per second.
1Hp =550ft-lb/s
1hp =0.125ft-lb/s
Ratio =4400

Ling

Let's see. 1 mechanical HP = 745.7 watts. My PC consumes about 350 watts when gaming.

If I'm doing the math correctly, I would need 2,065 hamsters generating power from the wheel. But realistically, I might need double that for conversion costs, them sleeping, and some dieing on me.

That's going to require a lot of food and cage cleanup time. Not worth it IMHO.

all hail the future (5, Funny)

golden age villain (1607173) | more than 3 years ago | (#33489524)

I can't wait to see all the iPhone 5 owners shaking their phones to power them all the while gripping them with two fingers to keep a decent reception. This is exactly how I envisioned the future.

Re:all hail the future (2, Insightful)

anguirus.x (1463871) | more than 3 years ago | (#33489624)

At least until someone releases "Bust A Charge" that has users perform gestures while holding the phone resembling dance steps, and thus recharging the phone.

Re:all hail the future (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33489686)

actually, that sounds like an awesome future! imagine walking the streets of new york surrounded by a constant disco rave

Re:all hail the future (1)

dintech (998802) | more than 3 years ago | (#33498424)

That's not the future, that's mescaline.

Re:all hail the future (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 3 years ago | (#33490302)

Sounds like a tribal dance for speaking to the Gods.

Re:all hail the future (1)

AmberBlackCat (829689) | more than 3 years ago | (#33492430)

It reminds me of some old movie I saw. I don't remember the name, but there was an elevator. And in the elevator the people had to dance to make the elevator go.

Re:all hail the future (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 3 years ago | (#33489764)

shaking their phones to power

This would be awkward if you are a teacher: Honestly officer, I was just charging my phone, not doing what you think I did.

Re:all hail the future (2, Funny)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#33490202)

On the positive side, people suffering from Parkinson disease will never experience an empty battery.

Re:all hail the future (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 3 years ago | (#33490744)

And they'll be way more employable. Oh, my phones out of power, here's $5 if you'll hold my phone for 5 minutes.

Re:all hail the future (2, Funny)

davester666 (731373) | more than 3 years ago | (#33490780)

Alternately, you use the phone's flash to trigger an epileptic seizure and then insert phone into epileptic's pocket...

Re:all hail the future (0)

Jedi Alec (258881) | more than 3 years ago | (#33491672)

Hmmm, that'll give a whole new streetview...

"Will shake your phone for food" :)

Re:all hail the future (1)

Kuraz (702906) | more than 3 years ago | (#33492144)

People replying to my sig annoy me. That's why I change it all the time.

Does it help?

Re:all hail the future (1)

coogan (850562) | more than 3 years ago | (#33490242)

Hmmm "vibrations straight into electricity" - so in the case of vibrators we could possibly prove perpetual motion and the like?

Re:all hail the future (1)

NotOverHere (1526201) | more than 3 years ago | (#33493674)

I don't know, my watch [seikowatches.com] has been working just fine with the same motion, minus the grip of death.

Re:all hail the future (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#33494222)

I had to replace the capacitor in mine after about five years. Did you have the same problem? Its been about eight years on the new capacitor and it seems to be fading again, but not enough for me to want to replace it.

Of course the kinetic watch, and movement powered torches, are bad examples because they are both much more bulky than they need to be. Additionally they are fragile because of the large moving masses they contain.

Re:all hail the future (1)

Drakkenmensch (1255800) | more than 3 years ago | (#33496934)

This is exactly what I dreamed the future to be when I was a kid - holding a pocket-sized device in each hand while dancing the maracas like the titular monkey from Samba De Amigo

self powered sounds great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33489528)

for the manufacture, now when your experimental and probably fragile power source craps out you have to buy that and whatever it was attached to

Because epSos.de said: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33489562)

$35 = 27,17€ as of Today
Let's wait another couple of inflation cycles and the technology becomes affordable to TV watching Europeans.

The future of what? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33489586)

Things that don't need a lot of power yet are always in movement and/or attached to the body? The only thing that meets that criteria is a watch. They've been self-winding for decades.

If there's enough power in the environment to power useful electronic devices above the level of a watch or a remote (that's used maybe twice a day), then we'd be on fire.

Nothing to see here. This is about as useful as a Space Nutter thread.

Re:The future of what? (3, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#33489768)

If there's enough power in the environment to power useful electronic devices above the level of a watch or a remote (that's used maybe twice a day), then we'd be on fire.

I used to have a pocket calculator that was powered by a small solar panel. The power requirements of something like a central heating control are similar. Even the parts are similar: small LCD, simple microcontroller, just the addition of a valve or two to control the water flow.

My router has a 7W power supply. It is in a 6" square box, so the amount of solar energy hitting it is about three times the amount of electricity that it requires at peak times, although no solar cell will extract anything like that much yet. Still, it's a relatively old design and you could probably do the same thing now in 1-2W, making it a lot more feasible.

In my nextdoor neighbour's garden, there are a number of self-contained garden lights. They have a solar panel on top, which charges a battery during the day and they discharge at night, so they have no need for an external power source. If there weren't a lot of energy in the environment, then this planet would not have developed a breathable atmosphere.

Re:The future of what? (1)

blincoln (592401) | more than 3 years ago | (#33490456)

They have a solar panel on top, which charges a battery during the day and they discharge at night, so they have no need for an external power source.

But they do require periodic replacement of the rechargeable batteries. Am I the only one that (for non-portable devices, like garden lights) would rather pay less than $5 upfront for an AC adapter instead of about $3 every 6-12 months on batteries?

Re:The future of what? (1)

tftp (111690) | more than 3 years ago | (#33490850)

I use solar garden lights not because they are cheaper but because there is no cable.

Re:The future of what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33491390)

How often do you replace the batteries in them?

I'm not trying to make a point, here. I'm just interested in your experience and if it lines up with the 6 to 12 month lifespan mentioned above.

Re:The future of what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33491834)

Normal NiMH batteries need to be replaced after something like 500 charge cycles(so 500 days?), some manufacturers claim 1000 charge cycles.

Re:The future of what? (1)

tftp (111690) | more than 3 years ago | (#33492234)

How often do you replace the batteries in them?

I have about 25 lights, and I replaced only one or two batteries so far, and it was an "infant death" - failed right out of the box. Some lights need replacement for other reasons - such as the plastic that they are made from gradually loses transparency (this is caused by cheap, non-UV-stable material.) The first batch of LED lights was bought 2 years ago, and the batteries in them still are fine. Your 6 to 12 months goal is not a problem.

In my experience, it is far more important to install them where they get enough sunlight to charge. Then the battery is good enough to power the LED for most of the night.

The house had a legacy 12V incandescent landscape lighting. I never used it, and with today's energy prices I probably can't even afford it. The cable to those lights is still in place, and it's probably damaged in many places.

For some lights I still plan to use DC power, though - these will be the lights that are largely hidden. But they will be screwed to the deck's railing, so the power wires will not be a problem. And these will be LED lights, so they won't take too much energy. Per my electric bill, it is worth it to use energy-efficient lights and other equipment.

Re:The future of what? (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 3 years ago | (#33492912)

How often do you replace the batteries in them?

I'm not trying to make a point, here. I'm just interested in your experience and if it lines up with the 6 to 12 month lifespan mentioned above.

Never. By the time the batteries are dead they're either degraded by exposure to the elements or broken by the lawnmower or the mailman or your kids or something. The longest surviving one I've had had batteries that would have needed replaced after about 2 years, but it was in such bad shape I didn't.

Re:The future of what? (1)

iamhassi (659463) | more than 3 years ago | (#33492162)

"instead of about $3 every 6-12 months on batteries?"

citation needed: why do the rechargeable batteries require replacing every 6-12 months? After being charged 180-360 times (full charge each day) they can't hold a charge anymore?

Modern NiMH rechargeable batteries like Sanyo Eneloop [amazon.com] retain 85% of full capacity even after a year in storage and can charge up to 1,000 times without experiencing any memory effect while only costing $2.50 a battery. I wouldn't mind replacing the batteries every 3 years or so.

Re:The future of what? (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 3 years ago | (#33496828)

Modern NiMH rechargeable batteries like Sanyo Eneloop [amazon.com]

I ran down a similar link last time this discussion came around. Long-story-short: Duracell has licensed the same technology and they're easily available at WalMart or similar. 'Pre-charged' rechargables are the marketing lyric to look for. Strangely enough they're not very well marketed themselves (probably would cut into the main business too much).

Re:The future of what? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#33501020)

Duracell "Pre-charged" made in japan are the same, Duracell "Pre-charged" made in China are not. Even the Rayovac "Hybrids" are better han the Chinese Duracell "Precharged". Eneloops are the best, but cost the most. I use them and the rayovac hybrids.

Re:The future of what? (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 3 years ago | (#33504020)

Duracell "Pre-charged" made in japan are the same, Duracell "Pre-charged" made in China are not.

Ah, good to know! Thanks.

Re:The future of what? (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 3 years ago | (#33491270)

I used to have a pocket calculator that was powered by a small solar panel. The power requirements of something like a central heating control are similar.

The central heating control can be powered by the heat of the furnace, if it comes to that. The requirements are trivial. What matters is whether you have enough power to keep the necessary pumps, blowers and relays on-line.

In my next door neighbour's garden, there are a number of self-contained garden lights.

The lights are staked and portable.

You eliminate the expense and danger of high voltage wiring. The nuisance of low voltage wiring. It doesn't matter how inefficient the lights are. It doesn't matter if they are next to useless for anything but purely decorative lighting.

Re:The future of what? (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 3 years ago | (#33492932)

If there's enough power in the environment to power useful electronic devices above the level of a watch or a remote (that's used maybe twice a day), then we'd be on fire.

I used to have a pocket calculator that was powered by a small solar panel. The power requirements of something like a central heating control are similar. Even the parts are similar: small LCD, simple microcontroller, just the addition of a valve or two to control the water flow.

Speaking of controlling water flow, I've been seeing "solar" powered automatic faucets in public restrooms for a while now. Good call there, to keep from having to replace the batteries every few months, I think.

Re:The future of what? (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 3 years ago | (#33510152)

In my nextdoor neighbour's garden, there are a number of self-contained garden lights. They have a solar panel on top, which charges a battery during the day and they discharge at night,

I've seen and purchased several of these devices, and they just go to show how solar powered devices just are not ready yet. Inevitably, they are far dimmer than their electrical counterparts, and only last a few hours past sunset. They slowly die over the course of 1 - 3 years due to cheap panels, poor weatherproofing, and insufficient batteries. The manufacturers know this, so they even use parts that don't last: solar panels protected by plastic covers that turn opaque with time, iron parts that rust, cheap plastic that snaps in the wind.

The benefit of these things is that you don't have to run power lines to them. But the amount of power they consume is insignificant, so it isn't a green energy thing. I think radium lights or RTGs would probably be a better idea than solar. You could make a high-quality solar one, but it would have expensive panels, and the panels would probably be much larger than the light itself. You can resolve this by having panels elsewhere and running wires to the lights, but that kinda defeats the convenience aspect.

Insightful? (1)

anguirus.x (1463871) | more than 3 years ago | (#33489862)

There are plenty of things operating in hot, noisy environments that could use that power. There's a ton of power in those environments, enough to replace the external power source (FTA, more or less). Though, strictly speaking, the most successful of these will probably not be power sources, exactly. They will be engines for removing entropy from a system (e.g. hot air -> geometric mesh -> sound -> electricity).

Re:Insightful? (1)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 3 years ago | (#33490012)

How about car shock absorbers that recharge the car battery. I could be wrong, and I would love to see someone in the know run the numbers, but I would guess that there must be at least as much energy pushed into shock absorbers as there is in a regenerative breaking system.

Re:Insightful? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33492776)

With regenerative shock absorbers, sex in the car would also recharge the battery. Nice excuse to do it if you're stranded with a girl.

Re:Insightful? (1, Redundant)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | more than 3 years ago | (#33490516)

They will be engines for removing entropy from a system

Or just shift the entropy around, like a lever trades space for power. Creating said engines will increase entropy too.

I hope you didn't just suggest that you can win the game.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ginsberg's_Theorem [wikipedia.org]

Re:Insightful? (2, Interesting)

TheLink (130905) | more than 3 years ago | (#33490632)

Well the universe is something for free already.

Whether you like it or not is a different issue :).

Re:Insightful? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33498178)

Dammit! I just lost The Game.

Re:The future of what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33489886)

Hey, way to support the continued innovation of technology. How's that silver platter?

Re:The future of what? (1)

spectrokid (660550) | more than 3 years ago | (#33490102)

Car key (shaking + induction when in contact)
Central heating thermostat (Day / night temp variations, solar panel)
Data logger for temperature monitoring in transport of fresh food.
Pocket calculator
Keeping the battery topped up of an emergency flash light in car / boat / plane
Keep single battery lasting "forever", e.g. smoke alarm: detection self powered, the alarm beeper on battery.

Re:The future of what? (1)

jmccay (70985) | more than 3 years ago | (#33490110)

Actually, my work is currently installing hands-free faucets in the bathroom sinks. The sensor battery is recharged with a small water turbine, and you only need to change the battery when it no longer works. Creating more technology like this would be better for the green movement than Al Gore's movie. Although, I doubt it is cheap enough yet for use by everyday folks.

Re:The future of what? (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#33494242)

Brings to mind a water powered extraction fan I saw a couple of years ago. You can install it in a shower cubicle and have it run the fan whenever the water is flowing, and you don't have to run mains power above a wet area.

Re:The future of what? (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 3 years ago | (#33490322)

How about a pacemaker? That sounds far more useful.

Re:The future of what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33494790)

Electric cars won't need batteries if the parts can store charge.

reminds me of.. (3, Interesting)

Lanteran (1883836) | more than 3 years ago | (#33489798)

it reminds me of those clocks that draw mechanical power from changes in temperature and air pressure. If I recall correctly, the reason they never caught on is because people were prone to moving them so much, which caused mechanical failures galore.

Re:reminds me of.. (1)

jschen (1249578) | more than 3 years ago | (#33491502)

You're thinking of the Atmos clock [wikipedia.org] . I would love to have one someday. I doubt moving it around is much of an issue... it can't be worse than the handling during shipping. They're not that common simply because they're expensive novelties. Few people are willing to pay so much money for a clock, no matter how advanced.

Re:reminds me of.. (1)

neminem (561346) | more than 3 years ago | (#33500346)

Just as long as they don't start working on developing the technologies for car engines... if they do, someone might want to check to make sure their lead engineer didn't start a school for geniuses, and that there aren't any Sontarans involved.

Re:reminds me of.. (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 3 years ago | (#33510174)

And they never produced enough power. My parents owned one and it always ran too slowly.

Drop Remote (1)

FuzzyHead (86261) | more than 3 years ago | (#33489800)

I can see it now. Dropping the remote to my TV will soon be necessary for proper function which is certainly a step up. Currently, when the remote is dropped, I have spend 5 minutes hunting for the batteries that have fallen out and fallen under the couch.

oh, great (1)

meeotch (524339) | more than 3 years ago | (#33489836)

So the Umbrella Corporation from Japan is conducting experiments to convert human energy into electricity?

Yeah, this will end well.

(Then again - if we end up with a Milla v. Carrie-Ann Moss girl-on-girl scene, who am I to complain?)

Re:oh, great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33490112)

Oh god, which movie was that in? I'm going to go watch it for a few hours.

Re:oh, great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33491566)

You're the reason people use Google as a verb. Try "Umbrella Corporation."

http://www.google.com/search?q=umbrella+corporation [google.com]

Less hype please (1)

Kohath (38547) | more than 3 years ago | (#33489968)

They aren't the future. They're just another niche product that makes sense for a few particular applications.

Re:Less hype please (2, Insightful)

hitmark (640295) | more than 3 years ago | (#33490104)

Depends. Consider a medical implant using this and the recent bluetooth 4 standard for low power connectivity to ever so often send some status out. Perhaps someone with diabetes could get a running count on their blood sugar, rather then having to prick their finger ever so often. Or we could be looking at a grid of low power sensors that use the same to send updates to a hub that use some kind of data connection (perhaps sat phone) to keep a record of conditions in a remote area. Thing is we do not know how they will be applied until they are available. The trick is to make them enough of a commodity that people can experiment.

Re:Less hype please (1)

Kohath (38547) | more than 3 years ago | (#33490166)

Those are definitely a few niche products.

I know people who design medical devices and one of my friends was working on self-powered devices for his PhD project. They definitely have a set of potential uses.

Still, they're not "the future" and shouldn't be over-hyped.

Re:Less hype please (1)

tftp (111690) | more than 3 years ago | (#33490912)

Perhaps someone with diabetes could get a running count on their blood sugar, rather then having to prick their finger ever so often.

You can power the implanted sensor with magnetic field from the reader. This is what RFID uses (or most electrical toothbrushes.) A more difficult problem is to keep the sensor clean, since the blood tends to clot.

Re:Less hype please (1)

Ephemeriis (315124) | more than 3 years ago | (#33490534)

They aren't the future. They're just another niche product that makes sense for a few particular applications.

I dunno... Look around you at all the various battery-powered devices you've got. How many of those are completely stationary? How many of them actually get picked up and moved around fairly often?

Remote controls for various devices... Cell phones... MP3 players... Game controllers... Cordless mice... Cordless phones... Flashlights...

Sure, right now the technology is generally awkward and unusable. Devices generally draw too much power, so you have to recharge them fairly often... And the charging process generally requires fairly vigorous motion... But power requirements get lower, and generation efficiency gets higher...

How long before simply picking up your remote control to change the channel generates enough electricity to keep it charged and working for a day or two? Until simply carrying your MP3 player or phone around is enough to keep it up and running forever?

Sure... Big appliances inside a house probably won't benefit from any kind of ubiquitous/passive power generation like this. It's hard to pump enough sunlight into your basement to run your washer, and you probably don't want your house shaking enough to generate electricity for your water heater...

But I bet you could probably make it work for just about anything portable, or anything that is used outdoors.

Re:Less hype please (1)

Kohath (38547) | more than 3 years ago | (#33490936)

How long before simply picking up your remote control to change the channel generates enough electricity to keep it charged and working for a day or two? Until simply carrying your MP3 player or phone around is enough to keep it up and running forever?

For my remote, I can get 8 AAA batteries at the dollar store for $1. That's like a 3 year supply.

For MP3 players and phones, you obviously don't know how they work or how much power they use or how much power is available through energy harvesting and similar techniques. It's similar to wishing for a 300 MPG car. The energy equations don't work out.

Re:Less hype please (1)

Ephemeriis (315124) | more than 3 years ago | (#33491926)

For MP3 players and phones, you obviously don't know how they work or how much power they use or how much power is available through energy harvesting and similar techniques. It's similar to wishing for a 300 MPG car. The energy equations don't work out.

Sure, right now the technology is generally awkward and unusable. Devices generally draw too much power, so you have to recharge them fairly often... And the charging process generally requires fairly vigorous motion... But power requirements get lower, and generation efficiency gets higher...

The fact of the matter, whether you like it or not, is that technology changes.

Go back a few years and we only had CRT's - massive things that wouldn't even fit in today's portable devices. And they drew plenty of power. Then we had LCD's... And now we've got OLED's that use even less power.

Used to be we needed spinning disks to store data, lots of energy wasted to produce mechanical motion that didn't really get us anywhere. Now we've got flash instead - no moving parts, lower power usage.

Hell, just look at your remote control. I remember having to replace the batteries in my remote almost monthly - now they last for ages.

We're constantly seeing stories here on Slashdot about how some new technology has made even denser batteries, or even more efficient solar cells, or even less power-hungry chips.

Wishing for a 300 MPG car may very well be futile... Since you've got to physically move the mass of the car, plus the passengers, plus any cargo... But a self-charging iPod doesn't need to physically move anything. It just has to power a display, some storage, and a playback chip - and we can make all those things more energy-efficient.

Re:Less hype please (1)

Kohath (38547) | more than 3 years ago | (#33492706)

I like it just fine. But hype is misleading, often to the point of being a lie. There are things we can actually do to actually make improvements. We don't need some kind of pie-in-the-sky. Improvements are incentive enough.

And sometimes (often), technical improvements aren't worth the cost. I don't need $20 worth of energy harvesting technology in my remote control to save me $2 in batteries.

Then someone improves it some more, and then some more, and the $20 technology has dropped to $1 and it becomes worthwhile. Good. But the hype was trying to convince me to buy it at $20, which would have been stupid.

Re:Less hype please (1)

Kohath (38547) | more than 3 years ago | (#33491094)

On second thought, it might possibly work for a screenless MP3 player like the iPod shuffle. But never for a phone.

Kiss perfect a watch (0)

Anti Cheat (1749344) | more than 3 years ago | (#33489976)

For gong on over 200 years designers have slaved away at various schemes to make self winding/powered watches. None of the modern electrical self powered have ever reached the mass, 'as in cheaply' produced watch category. Sure there have been a few novelty types and even the high end ones have been rather meager successes,
http://web-japan.org/trends98/honbun/ntj990207.html [web-japan.org] and http://jrse.aip.org/jrsebh/v1/i6/p062701_s1?view=fulltext [aip.org] that fit more into the category of novelty items. These certainly are not to be considered a mass produced success.

The most activity seems to be in making the illumination better. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tritium_illumination [wikipedia.org] if you like to be irradiated. But that is more tweaking and old idea.

So you want to show the world this is no gimmick tech. Produce a simple inexpensive self powered electrical wristwatch that 1 year later the Chinese ripoff factories produce ones that sell at Walmart for $10ea.

So do that before ever moving on to the futuristic ipod'ish widgets. Then we'll all have mass produced products that run off your body heat, sweat, or the pressure of you fat ass wiggling about on your computer chair and cost no more than whatever else you have stuck to the side of your face presently.

That's just great. Then people will never have any excuse to ever put any of that crap down and be disconnected from the virtual world while the devices recharge. That will really open the market for the; As seen on TV, self powered, full body, 3D glasses included, sex suit. The more you get your grove on, the more you power the realism of your fantasy. All yours for 3 easy payments....

Now that is mass production of power at its finest.

Tritium - As Harmless As These Things Get (1)

Iskender (1040286) | more than 3 years ago | (#33491052)

The most activity seems to be in making the illumination better. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tritium_illumination [wikipedia.org] if you like to be irradiated. But that is more tweaking and old idea.

Saying anyone will be "irradiated" by tritium is awfully close to fear-mongering. The radiation of tritium outside any packaging is stopped by six millimetres of air. In other words, you have to break the container in your mouth to get irradiated - the radiation cannot penetrate the dead outermost layer of your skin.

Of course, being irradiated isn't so bad. After all, our body irradiates itself 8000 times every second: http://rerowland.com/BodyActivity.htm [rerowland.com]

Re:Tritium - As Harmless As These Things Get (1)

Anti Cheat (1749344) | more than 3 years ago | (#33494680)

Ahh Iskender. It was a joke, and one you seemed to have let zoom way over your head. Then you insult me?

Did you really think after reading the context of that whole diatribe I was serious. Are you another one of those people that just skim? If you are, then you sadly are the subject of another one of my pet diatribes, on the sad state of this generations inability to comprehend or use critical thinking when dealing with any thought more than one paragraph long.

So let's examine what was written on either side of the link. "The most activity seems to be in making the illumination better." The subject matter regarding "better illumination" is facetious and the following retort after the link about being irradiated, is sarcasm. The link itself is a joke as well. I never said the joke was good. But it is now.

I don't particularly like people like you that over react to every single word people utter, just waiting to jump on something minor and blowing it way out of proportion. You completely failed the context of not only the sentence but the preceding subject matter. Calling me almost a fear monger based on one sentence that you took out of context, is like someone calling you an illiterate moron. I would certainly not object if someone said that. Nor would I take any other over reaction to defend you or to chastise that person. Now go check my grammar for me and criticize that as well.

Pffft. Someone read something about iridium in high school and now they are an expert on social intercourse.

Re:Kiss perfect a watch (1)

aXis100 (690904) | more than 3 years ago | (#33494482)

Mechanical watches are innefficient. Digital watches can be self powered very easily - solar digital watches were $10 a piece a while ago - it's just that they dont look very good.

Just like digital watches, electronic sensors can be built with low enough power to make it practical.

Re:Kiss perfect a watch (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 3 years ago | (#33494888)

That's just great. Then people will never have any excuse to ever put any of that crap down and be disconnected from the virtual world while the devices recharge.

So you just described the plot to Vernor Vinge's book Rainbows End [wikipedia.org] .

Well self powered devices like AR contacts weren't exactly the main part of the plot but it was a big part of it.

Excellent News! (1)

DynaSoar (714234) | more than 3 years ago | (#33490008)

And here I've been hearing 'children are the future'. Those little bastards make noise, eat food, get sick and all kinds of annoyances. So good to know we'll have parts instead of children.

Wait a second. These wouldn't happen to be *children* parts, would they? Low maintenance is great, but self-assembly? It'd take away the only fun part about them -- making 'em.

Re:Excellent News! (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#33490222)

Children do self-assemble, except for the initial cell.

Re:Excellent News! (1)

DynaSoar (714234) | more than 3 years ago | (#33506514)

Children do self-assemble, except for the initial cell.

Then I wasted two decades shoveling raw material in front of and into a couple of them, as well a spending half my waking life acquiring the means to obtain those raw materials?

Mine must be defective. They seemed to operate more on the principle of maximizing local entropy.

Re:Excellent News! (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#33506566)

Children do self-assemble, except for the initial cell.

Then I wasted two decades shoveling raw material in front of and into a couple of them, as well a spending half my waking life acquiring the means to obtain those raw materials?

No. Self-assembly does not mean self-production of the raw materials or energy. Self-assembly only means the self-construction from given materials, using given energy. If computers were self-assembling, you'd e.g. not put more memory in, but you'd put in raw silicon (and other needed raw substances), and your computer would transform that silicon into memory by itself. It would not produce that silicon itself, nor would it produce its own energy out of nothing.

umbrella group? (1)

Ephemeriis (315124) | more than 3 years ago | (#33490410)

...an umbrella group...

Anyone else read that and immediately think of zombies?

I don't get it (1)

Hazelfield (1557317) | more than 3 years ago | (#33490706)

Why does an umbrella need energy in the first place? You just unfold it by hand!

Re:I don't get it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33491046)

You've got that the wrong way around - you fold the umbrella, storing mechanical energy in its spring mechanism, so that it can be later opened by the press of a button.

Re:I don't get it (1)

bar-agent (698856) | more than 3 years ago | (#33492298)

Why does an umbrella need energy in the first place? You just unfold it by hand!

How can you Internet-enable the umbrella without electricity?

"Stans-brella tweets: I am wide open and so very wet. #notwhatyouthink #weathersucks"

Although, in seriousness, I suppose an umbrella might give you better reception on a Wifi hotspot or something.

Better solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33492198)

Does the average industrialized society member really move enough to generate significant power? Perhaps we should be working more on bioelectrical implants to harness all the excess food that we eat...

One kcal is slightly more than one watt-hour, so there's plenty of excess energy in the average diet. Food is much more expensive than raw electricity, but people don't seem to mind. Just think, one McDonald's double cheeseburger could power a typical laptop for over 25 hours.

440 kcal = 1,840,960 J = 511 W*h
511 W*h / 20 W = 25.55 h
This assumes 100% efficiency, but it's mostly to illustrate the incredible amount of energy in food.

reminds me of washing clothes in a moving vehical (1)

sp0tter (1456139) | more than 3 years ago | (#33493854)

I was told if you get a large, sealed tub, you can drop dirty clothes, soap, and water in before you road trip and after a certain amount of time the agitation inside the tub will scrub your clothes clean. I haven't tried this yet but once I get my old diesel rabbit running again maybe ill just leave the old shocks on there and try it out.

Re:reminds me of washing clothes in a moving vehic (1)

RobVB (1566105) | more than 3 years ago | (#33498534)

Adding a large tub full of water to your car probably doesn't save any energy at all. If you do try this, see what it does to your gas mileage.

Re:reminds me of washing clothes in a moving vehic (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 3 years ago | (#33499352)

Well, naturally you'd do the full-tub part on the downhill leg of your journey. You'd empty it before going back up hill.

Re:reminds me of washing clothes in a moving vehic (1)

sp0tter (1456139) | more than 3 years ago | (#33503942)

did i mention the rabbit is diesel powered? 55 mpg ftw!

Energy has to come from somewhere (1)

TandooriC (1525601) | more than 3 years ago | (#33494034)

Doesn't anyone else thinks that this is like a energy sucking vampire? If it takes it's energy from body heat, then the body needs to produce more to make up for the loss.

Evo (1)

Joebert (946227) | more than 3 years ago | (#33495082)

At this rate we're going to evolve dicks that suck themselves before we get flying cars.

Re: (1)

clint999 (1277046) | more than 3 years ago | (#33495738)

Those are definitely a few niche products.I know people who design medical devices and one of my friends was working on self-powered devices for his PhD project. They definitely have a set of potential uses.Still, they're not "the future" and shouldn't be over-hyped.

Well, now. (1)

vegiVamp (518171) | more than 3 years ago | (#33497060)

> an umbrella group [...] working on [...] self powered parts

I suppose they're looking at using something called a T-bacterium in their components ?

Re: (1)

clint999 (1277046) | more than 3 years ago | (#33498332)

"instead of about $3 every 6-12 months on batteries?" citation needed: why do the rechargeable batteries require replacing every 6-12 months? After being charged 180-360 times (full charge each day) they can't hold a charge anymore? Modern NiMH rechargeable batteries like Sanyo Eneloop retain 85% of full capacity even after a year in storage and can charge up to 1,000 times without experiencing any memory effect while only costing $2.50 a battery. I wouldn't mind replacing the batteries every 3 years
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