The days of your mobile battery going flat in the middle of a critical call could soon be over thanks to researchers at Texas A&M University who are working on converting the sound waves produced by talking into a phone into energy to power the device.
Professor Tahir Cagin in the Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering at the University, who focuses on nanotechnology in his research, has discovered that certain types of piezoelectric material can harvest and convert energy at a 100% increase when manufactured at a very small size – in this case around 21 nanometres in thickness.
Piezoelectrics are materials, usually crystals or ceramics, that generate voltage when a form of mechanical stress is applied and Cagin sees their potential to have applications in powering phones, laptops, MP3 players and other computer-related devices.
Originally discovered by French scientists in the 1880s, piezoelectrics were first used in sonar devices during the First World War and can be found in microphones and quartz watches. On a grander scale, some European nightclubs feature dance floors built with piezoelectrics that absorb and convert energy from dancers’ footsteps to help power lights in the club.
This application of the technology centres around harvesting power from soundwaves so heavy data users might still find their batteries going flat unless they keep talking. However, piezoelectrics may be applicable to keystrokes or movement sensors.
I've been writing about technology for nearly 20 years, including editing industry magazines Connect and Communications International. In 2002 I co-founded Futurity Media with Anthony Plewes. My focus in Futurity Media is in emerging technologies, social media and future gazing. As a graduate of philosophy & science, I have studied futurology & foresight to the post-grad level.