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Researchers Build Wearable Generators

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the power-from-the-people dept.

Power 84

schliz writes "From the itnews article: 'Bioengineers from the University of Auckland have developed cheap, lightweight rubber power generators that could harvest up to a Watt of power if embedded in shoes. The researchers built on "dielectric elastomer generator" technology that used the movements of a flexible, non-conductive material to build up charge in attached electrodes.'"

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First post (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35775564)

they give me the power to get first post!

Re:First post (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35775920)

Quit trolling, Mr. Stark.

Help power cars? (2, Interesting)

froggymana (1896008) | more than 3 years ago | (#35775572)

I wonder if something like this could be embedded in the tires of a car to help generate electricity to power it self. Would it actually be able to generate enough electricity to make it worthwhile for an electric car though?

Re:Help power cars? (4, Insightful)

QBasicer (781745) | more than 3 years ago | (#35775602)

I wonder if something like this could be embedded in the tires of a car to help generate electricity to power it self. Would it actually be able to generate enough electricity to make it worthwhile for an electric car though?

Unfortunately, the extra energy you'd get out of the generators would be provided by the engine (conservation of energy). You'd only get a benefit if the car was coasting downhill by turning the potential energy into electric energy. Since energy conversion isn't 100% efficient, you'd actually lose energy and be further behind in the process.

Re:Help power cars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35775634)

not exactly true. Tires are supposes to deform a little bit to have more surface area to grip the pavement and to a degree, absord shock. This would put some of that wasted energy towards something useful.

Now that I think about it though, it would probably be much better spent trying to make the tire materials more elastic so the energy spend deforming the tire goes right back into propelling the car.

Re:Help power cars? (1)

Phoshi (1857806) | more than 3 years ago | (#35775770)

Surely it does - when the tire un-deforms as it's coming off the road. There's not much 'wasted' kinetic energy in a car.

Re:Help power cars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35775796)

Unless of course you count the fact that the VAST majority of the energy is used to transport the car itself, and very little is actually used to transport passengers/cargo. You know, the entire point of the vehicle in the first place.

Re:Help power cars? (1)

arielCo (995647) | more than 3 years ago | (#35775936)

Touch the tires after a ride - they're hot from the energy wasted in this deformation-restoration cycle.

Re:Help power cars? (2)

Unoriginal_Nickname (1248894) | more than 3 years ago | (#35776006)

They're hot from friction with the road.

Re:Help power cars? (1)

TheClam (209230) | more than 3 years ago | (#35776578)

No, they're not, unless you've been drifting.

The friction between the tires and the road is static friction, which keeps the tire from slipping. Only kinetic friction would result in loss of energy as heat.

Re:Help power cars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35777182)

Actually, most tires are slipping a little bit most of the time, so it is kinetic friction, and it does create heat. You can google Akerman steering for why car tires always slip when cornering, as for traveling "straight": most roads are crowned (to drain water), so even an ideal car (set up more like train wheels) has to steer slightly against the crown to keep straight, which results in slippage. Further, the alignment settings of your car aren't set with the wheels exactly parallel either. They're actually toed in slightly in the front, and leaning inwards slightly on top. Again, more slippage and kinetic friction.

Re:Help power cars? (2)

michelcolman (1208008) | more than 3 years ago | (#35779628)

Depends on your definition of "slip". If you say a tire is slipping when its rotational speed does not match the theoretical zero-slip speed of a rolling tyre (which is a common definition), then yes, it is slipping pretty much constantly while driving. However, this "slip" is comparable to your being able to move your finger forward and backward while touching something, without the finger actually sliding over the surface, just using the elasticity in your fingertip. A tyre can keep doing this as it rolls around, which means the calculated "slip" is not really the tire sliding over the surface, but rather a continuously repeated deformation of the tyre surface which can give a significant difference between the theoretical zero-slip speed and the actual tire rotation speed. So while it is slipping according to the naive definition "speed does not match", it is usually not slipping when you use the "sliding, screeching" definition. That only happens in tight turns or when you drive like I do ;-)

This deformation-pseudo-slip does generate some heat since rubber does not reversibly deform perfectly without energy loss, but this is nowhere near the amount of energy released in a "real" slip.

Re:Help power cars? (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 3 years ago | (#35775718)

You'd only get a benefit if the car was coasting downhill by turning the potential energy into electric energy.

If you are coasting downhill, it seems to me that what you really need is power for the steering and the brakes.

Re:Help power cars? (5, Funny)

bmo (77928) | more than 3 years ago | (#35775798)

What we need is to find a way to coast uphill without having to coast downhill.

I've got it.

Put a magnet on the end of a pole in front of the car. It'll pull itself up a hill!

http://27.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_laxcr841Fm1qewll0o1_500.jpg [tumblr.com]

--
BMO

Re:Help power cars? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35775974)

What we need is to find a way to coast uphill without having to coast downhill.

My grandfather walked to school uphill both ways. And it was always snowing.

I suggest we look for the opposite of this area, perhaps on the other side of the world, and then we all can start coasting downhill on all our errands we go and it will always be nice and sunny:)

Re:Help power cars? (1)

SeaFox (739806) | more than 3 years ago | (#35776338)

Damn you! I saw that same pic once and saved it thinking "This will come in handy someday, on Slashdot most likely".

Re:Help power cars? (1)

QBasicer (781745) | more than 3 years ago | (#35775938)

Unless you used that energy to recharge some capacitors or batteries or something useful. Even if that power went into the electrical system directly there'd be less of a demand on the engine and thusly use less fuel.

Re:Help power cars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35817974)

Again, conservation of energy. The energy for this will ultimately come from the engine, how would charging batteries with this material in tires be better than taking the energy directly using an alternator?

Re:Help power cars? (1)

modmans2ndcoming (929661) | more than 3 years ago | (#35776288)

The rubber in the tires is compressing anyway. unless this generating material is more flexible than car tire material, then I see it as capturing energy that would be lost with out it.

Re:Help power cars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35826224)

This material generates 1W on a shoe, lets say it would get 5W from a car tyre, x4 is 20W, now compared to the thousands of watts used to propel the car the energy reclaimed (assuming it would be wasted and not require extra energy from the energy from the engine) would be little more than a rounding error, that is to say that this material is not terribly interesting for using in cars.

Re:Help power cars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35776418)

I wonder if something like this could be embedded in the tires of a car to help generate electricity to power it self. Would it actually be able to generate enough electricity to make it worthwhile for an electric car though?

Unfortunately, the extra energy you'd get out of the generators would be provided by the engine (conservation of energy). You'd only get a benefit if the car was coasting downhill by turning the potential energy into electric energy. Since energy conversion isn't 100% efficient, you'd actually lose energy and be further behind in the process.

Just throwing a thought out there; tires generate a bit of heat due to friction and I guess the compression of the internal air (hence the rating system on tires for maximum velocities etc). Couldn't this take advantage of that wasted heat to generate energy?

Re:Help power cars? (2)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 3 years ago | (#35775610)

These could be placed in the shoes of the secret service men who run along the President's car. Finally, a president who drives a hybrid!

Re:Help power cars? (1)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 3 years ago | (#35775800)

one would assume that any energy created would create some drag co-efficient somewhere.. may act to cool the tires a bit though.

Re:Help power cars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35775902)

The odds of it generating enough electricity to power itself is impractical. The question would be whether or not it can generate enough to lower the total electrical demands of the car. (Thus making it more efficient which is always a Good Thing - unless costs drive it out of the market.)

Re:Help power cars? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35775924)

For cars there is already something similar, at least in F1. KERS: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KERS

It has a questionable benefit for road cars though, considering the difference in forces.

Re:Help power cars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35775986)

Have you passed high school, err, elementary school physics yet?

Here's your question, passed through a moron translator to be even dumber:

"Can we put a windmill in front of a plane to power it self?" (I kept your retarded spelling of "itself")

Tell me if it still isn't dumb enough.

Re:Help power cars? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#35776002)

Well, at least we can still use windmills to keep the Dutch cool.

Re:Help power cars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35776168)

It was never cool to be Dutch.

Re:Help power cars? (1)

TheClam (209230) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777132)

Windmills do not work that way.

Re:Help power cars? (1)

arielCo (995647) | more than 3 years ago | (#35776016)

If you meant "to power itself" literally:

The extra energy generated from the tires would have to come at no cost from the engine. That is known as a perpetual motion [wikipedia.org] machine, which violates the principle of conservation of energy (free lunch out of nowhere).

Now, if you meant "have some extra power for accessories and the like":

When tires roll they get hot, partly from the energy wasted flexing and un-flexing the rubber, which is not perfectly resilient. Any energy drawn out of this cycle would ultimately be supplied by the engine in addition to said losses, which is the same as drawing current from the alternator minus the conversion losses of the elastomer.

OTOH, brakes as implemented in most vehicles dissipate engine energy, and that's where regenerative brakes [wikipedia.org] may be the answer, once they're practical

Re:Help power cars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35776322)

So you are saying that hot tires don't dissipate engine energy as heat?

Re:Help power cars? (1)

arielCo (995647) | more than 3 years ago | (#35776406)

I'm saying that they do, and any usable energy you want to harvest at the tires (as from using these dielectric polymers) will be in addition to this heat, and thus will have to be supplied ultimately by the engine. At any rate, we're talking single-digit watts here, tens at most, when the engine puts out tens of kW.

Energy harvesting is mostly about energy sources that are already present and end up as heat (sea/river waves, wind, sun), or "stealing" a few watts from a system you can't modify (e.g. your body). The idea of using human gait has been around for a whlle, and it can be a bit tiresome because in each step some of the energy that your tendons recover is being diverted to the device, so the goal is to increase conversion efficiency.

There are MUCH bigger sources of recoverable energy, including regenerative brakes (last paragraph).

Re:Help power cars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35776298)

Unfortunately not. The second law of thermodynamics would make this impossible. What you are suggesting is equivalent to a perpetual motion machine.

Re:Help power cars? (1)

Wolvenhaven (1521217) | more than 3 years ago | (#35780018)

What about embedding it in the road itself? Roads flex from cars driving over them, if this stuff could be made cheaply, laying down sheets of it under the road surface might generate a lot of power. If a person walking generates a single watt, thousands of cars weighing thousands of pounds theoretically would produce an exponential increase on that. Power transport would be an issue over this type of design, but it could be done every few miles so it generates just enough power to power the street lights, traffic lights, and stuff of that nature and maybe a small surrounding area too if the power generation is high enough. On certain roads it would also be more reliable than solar/wind power as there is always a base-number of cars driving on the road at any one time.

Up to a Watt of power (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35775580)

Bioengineers from the University of Auckland have developed cheap, lightweight rubber power generators that could harvest up to a Watt of power if embedded in shoes.

One watt and then if you want another watt you have to buy some more shoes? I can't see it catching on.

Re:Up to a Watt of power (4, Interesting)

bemymonkey (1244086) | more than 3 years ago | (#35775840)

A watt can recharge an entire smartphone battery in 1-2 hours... I'd welcome a pair of shoes that provides me with a Watt of power when I walk around.

Re:Up to a Watt of power (1)

Simon80 (874052) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777092)

I wish you were right, but if you take a 1500mAH battery at 3.7V, and assume 100% efficiency in charging, it's more like 5 and a half hours, and I'm guessing that's not a valid assumption.

Re:Up to a Watt of power (1)

bemymonkey (1244086) | more than 3 years ago | (#35778386)

Ah crap, you're right... for some reason I was going Watts=>Amps at 1:1 - *facepalm*.

Ouch.

It would charge, just slowly - or keep the battery from draining when in use. 1W (~270mA) is around the average amount my Desire draws in active use (screen on low brightness, online via 3G)...

Re:Up to a Watt of power (1)

michelcolman (1208008) | more than 3 years ago | (#35779732)

As long as you keep pacing while on the phone, it could work.

Re:Up to a Watt of power (1)

bemymonkey (1244086) | more than 3 years ago | (#35779952)

Funnily enough, I actually do that - drives my girlfriend crazy.

Re:Up to a Watt of power (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35781560)

To reduce wires, one would have to integrate the smart phone into the shoe.

Re:Up to a Watt of power (3, Insightful)

TD-Linux (1295697) | more than 3 years ago | (#35776352)

One watt and then if you want another watt you have to buy some more shoes? I can't see it catching on.

A watt is a unit of power, not energy. The lifetime of the shoes is unspecified. Speaking of a watt, that's a lot of power for an energy harvester like this, and sounds too good to be true - because it is. The article only shows a 10mW generator, though that is still enough for periodic radio transmissions. Also, I would guess because it is electrostatic in operation, it would also work as a fairly large capacitor for temporarily storing the energy.

Re:Up to a Watt of power (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35777364)

Whoosh.

Great (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35775582)

Now all I need are 2,000 people jogging around my house and I'm set.

At last! (1)

Grindalf (1089511) | more than 3 years ago | (#35775646)

This paves the way for shoes with flickering fading lightbulbs on each toe. Never again will you trip (unless you stand still of course). Is that one Watt per shoe or per pair? Won't it memory your lithium polymers to have that degree of variation of charge?

Obvious statement (2)

1s44c (552956) | more than 3 years ago | (#35775672)

If you wear these walking will become 1 watt harder.

Re:Obvious statement (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#35776018)

Not really most people bounce a bit when they walk, and the knees end up having to absorb the wasted energy, may as well absorb at least some of it and put it to good use.

Re:Obvious statement (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35776638)

Unlikely. And yet, something tells me most people could stand to expend a tiny bit more energy on their feet.

Re:Obvious statement (1)

White Flame (1074973) | more than 3 years ago | (#35776684)

The only real sensible non-intrusive human power generation I've seen was based on catching your knee joint as it extended to take the next step.

Normally when you extend your leg out, your muscles "catch" your lower leg so you don't snap it out against the joint's limit. By having a device hinged on your knee to slow your shin down instead, you do only half of that cycle of work, and also generate some electrical power at the same time.

Re:Obvious statement (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35776788)

Not necessarily a bad thing, considering how fat everyone is getting.

Re:Obvious statement (1)

wamatt (782485) | more than 3 years ago | (#35778930)

Not obvious.

Because it may reduce heat / sound energy emanating from your shoe by 1Watt.

Re:Obvious statement (1)

1s44c (552956) | more than 3 years ago | (#35791028)

Not obvious.

Because it may reduce heat / sound energy emanating from your shoe by 1Watt.

Things can be obvious even if they are not true.

Re:Obvious statement (1)

StillNeedMoreCoffee (123989) | more than 3 years ago | (#35781736)

That is true, no free energy. Like walking on sand. Each step would expend more energy, that is unless it is taking over a normal function of the shoe that was disapating that much energy in heat, sound, wear. If that is the case then it could be that the walking will not be any harder.

Been hearing this for a while now (5, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | more than 3 years ago | (#35775694)

This might be a new advance, but it's hard to tell. Here [slashdot.org] is a Slashdot story from 2001 with basically the same "researchers find a way to make shoes generate power" line.

Re:Been hearing this for a while now (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35775772)

We can call this an advance purely because of the numbers they're reporting--according to the 2001 article. While then they reported 0.0013W generated, now we're seeing one whole watt. Quite the improvement, and it can actually be used for things!

Re:Been hearing this for a while now (2)

Hultis (1969080) | more than 3 years ago | (#35775778)

So, would these shoes be sole-ar powered?

That one made me laugh, thanks kafka93 (ten years later)!

Re:Been hearing this for a while now (1)

binkzz (779594) | more than 3 years ago | (#35775784)

Maybe they got lost in time, and have been trying to get together 1.21 billion Chinese people to wear these shoes so they can get back.

Just a thought..

Your conversion might be off (1)

LostMyBeaver (1226054) | more than 3 years ago | (#35778706)

After all, a Jiggawatt is clearly not a Gigawatt. It might be the old definition of a Gibiwatt prior to those nifty genii who came up with a power of two friendly version of the metric system. Of course, it could also be that Douglas Adams was involved with the script indirectly and it's somehow based on base 13.

Re:Been hearing this for a while now (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35775874)

My skis generate electricity...
http://tech2.nytimes.com/mem/technology/techreview.html?res=9B0DEFD6153BF930A35751C1A96E958260

Re:Been hearing this for a while now (1)

BillX (307153) | more than 3 years ago | (#35788968)

Haha... The company I work at bought the company (that bought the company...) that used to make those! While they existed, they used to make vibration-absorbing golf clubs and bike shocks with the same guts.

It was a clever idea, at least - inside were one or more piezoceramic benders, wired through a very large inductor to a load (typically an LED to show that it was Doing Something). For the spark chasers out there, it was an LC tank circuit tuned to cancel out the main resonant mode of the "beam" (ski, club shaft), using the loaded piezo to draw mechanical energy out of the system (similar to back EMF on a heavily loaded electric motor). And it did "work"; at least in a laboratory setting, vibration was measurably dampened. Whether the difference was enough to matter in practice was debatable, though.

The big problem was that for as "active" as it was, it was completely passive - the only motion-opposing force was provided by what electricity was extracted from the motion itself (some 10s of mW per strike). Its downfall AFAICT was that a passive tuned mass damper could achieve the same result for 1/10 the cost. K2 / ACX eventually folded and was bought mostly for its equipment. Those same machines now are used make piezo energy harvesters that use vibrations to power small sensors embedded into airframes and other hard-to-reach places.

Re:Been hearing this for a while now (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35775988)

But this time it's rubber !
This open totally new options !
Like self powered vibrators. Perpetuum orgasmus.

Re:Been hearing this for a while now (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35777062)

I remember hearing about this in 1997 at the first international symposium of wearable computers held in Cambridge, MA.

This is useless, but... (2)

bmo (77928) | more than 3 years ago | (#35775740)

...it's perfect for a gag.

Hook this up to a pack of capacitors and I can go 'round zapping people, at random, without any need to find any woolen carpets to shuffle my feet across.

"Hi, Bob, that's a nice tray of cmos chips ya got there." *zap*

--
BMO

Re:This is useless, but... (1)

yelvington (8169) | more than 3 years ago | (#35775744)

Or rig the capacitors to discharge back into the shoe. Perpetual motion!

Re:This is useless, but... (0)

bmo (77928) | more than 3 years ago | (#35775776)

Put the shoes on a wheel (discard the tire) and mount to a car. All you'll need are brakes! It'll be like GTAIV with friction turned off!

--
BMO

Olympics (2)

Flipstylee (1932884) | more than 3 years ago | (#35775794)

Perhaps with enough of these the olympics could power itself...

Done before (1)

jimmydevice (699057) | more than 3 years ago | (#35775848)

This idea was thought up in the 70's, and probably long before that.

Power generating rubbers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35775888)

...think of the possibilities.

Re:Power generating rubbers? (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 3 years ago | (#35776176)

...think of the possibilities.

It sits in my wallet for two decades and goes bad?

Slashdotters need not apply (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35775932)

Bioengineers from the University of Auckland have developed cheap, lightweight rubber power generators that could harvest up to a Watt of power if embedded in shoes.

Unfortunately, since most Slashdotters stay in front of their computers all day long, no energy would be generated.

Re:Slashdotters need not apply (1)

White Flame (1074973) | more than 3 years ago | (#35776686)

Hey, I bounce my leg all the time, you insensitive clod!

years away from being wearable... (2)

StudCapsFTW (2037156) | more than 3 years ago | (#35775934)

The title is misleading. From TFA: “What we want to work towards is something that’s wearable ... but that might be a few years away yet.”

SWEET! (1)

Lexible (1038928) | more than 3 years ago | (#35775950)

Regenerative breaking for people!

Soylent Shoes (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35776166)

Regenerative breaking is people!

Taco Bell (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35775990)

You would be better off putting turbines in the pants of fast food patrons. Free energy and instead of a loud brrrrt there would be a much more pleasing fweeeeeee.

Next, they'll be... (2)

ToastedSpider (1531409) | more than 3 years ago | (#35776062)

inventing stillsuits. Add a bit of spice and we're set!

I'm Siiiiingin' in the Rain... (1)

Ezekiel68 (652736) | more than 3 years ago | (#35776226)

[BZZZZzzzzzzzt!] GAaaaaaaaaaAAaAaaAAh!

Re:I'm Siiiiingin' in the Rain... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35776310)

That sounds like something from Simpsons.

Bouncing Breasts -- energy (1)

psychogre (1475893) | more than 3 years ago | (#35776320)

Old news, but personal power generation has been around for quite a while.
See http://www.slate.com/id/2193827/ [slate.com]

Re:Bouncing Breasts -- energy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35776752)

A story about bouncing breasts that has a scientist named Wang? That's just too funny.

Walking? (1)

Adam Appel (1991764) | more than 3 years ago | (#35776348)

For this to work in any way we would have to get people walking somewhere.

Water... (1)

ibsteve2u (1184603) | more than 3 years ago | (#35778056)

Could see setting ribbons of the things fluttering in ocean currents and rivers...somewhat less harmful to the fish, I reckon; they've dealt with fluttering seaweed a lot longer than they have turbine blades.

A question for samzenpus... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35778318)

Why did you link to an Australian article, one which failed to mention New Zealand?

Are you hoping that many from outside the region will read the article and assume that the University of Auckland is in Australia, and the researchers involved are Australian?

Expert blindness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35779844)

Finally!

I suggested this for a military project in 1997. The "experts" said that it was not feasible.

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