Batteries are passé as researchers use ambient sound to charge smartphones

WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF

Being able to use sound to charge our gadgets is a revolutionary idea, and it’s made possible thanks to advances in Nanomanufacturing.

 

This could be the greatest power discovery for mobiles, ever. Apparently. So say researchers at Queen Mary University London (QMUL) in the UK who have built a smartphone in partnership with Nokia that is able to charge itself by just using ambient sound in the atmosphere around it.

 

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The smartphone in question was built using a principle called the piezoelectric effect, and Nanogenerators were created that harvest ambient noise and turn that into electric current. Effectively this allows the phone to be powered from the waste noise found all around us, such as the noise from children, who let’s face it are a constant source of noise, and now as it turns out also a useful way to charge your smartphone – who knew?!

The team added zinc oxide to a chemical mix and coated a material with it, which made the liquid zinc oxide grow into tiny nanorods all over the sheet. These rods it turns out are so small and so sensitive they bend in response to the pressure of sound waves. This is then harvested to produce an impressive 5 volts which is enough to charge a basic mobile phone.

Impressively the nanorods also respond to the human voice meaning that those chatty mobile users out there could actually be powering the phone as they talk. Awesome! And maybe this will cause a resurgence in phone calls over messaging.

 

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Dr Joe Briscoe from QMUL’s School of Engineering and Materials Science said: “Being able to keep mobile devices working for longer, or do away with batteries completely by tapping into the stray energy that is all around us is an exciting concept. This collaboration was an excellent opportunity to develop alternative device designs using cheap and scalable methods. We hope that we have brought this technology closer to viability.”

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