Forgot your phone charger? Don’t worry, the future’s got your back

Imagine that your mobile phone never ran out of battery, you didn’t have to think to charge it up and wherever you went it would always be topped up: that’s what the future will hold.

Wireless charging has been round for a while but has failed to fully break into the consumer market, but the number of inventions built around charging your phone with new technology being dreamed up by scientists and engineers is ever-increasing.

If they get their way and even half of the crazy charging inventions become a reality, then we’ll never have to plug our phones into the wall charger again.

In short, science is great, and here’s some of the most bizarre and brilliant ways you could be charging your phone in the future:

Beer-powered charging

If your phone dies on a night out when you’re in a bar then just pull out this device and use your beer, coffee or beverage of choice to re-charge your phone.

The Epiphany onE Puck claims to ensure your phone will never die again while being tiny, lightweight and portable. The device works with either hot or cold energy.

It managed to raise $132,000 when it was on Kickstarter, and Epiphany Labs, the company behind the device, says it will begin shipping this month.

Source: Kickstarter.


Charge while you walk

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Even something as simple as walking can be harnessed to create power that could one day re-charge the battery of an empty phone.

Researchers for the Georgia Institute of Technology have created a self-charging power cell that converts mechanical energy to chemical energy.

They say that anything that involves mechanical energy, including walking, could provide power when using the cell.

Source: Georgia Institute of Technology.


Image courtesy of: Georgia Tech Photo: Gary Meek.


Power up from thin air

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We can’t see it but there’s a lot floating around right in front of our eyes, and in recent years this has included an increasing amount of power from wireless signals.

Scientists from Duke University, US, have created a cheap way to harness the loose power. Their device converts microwave signals to direct current voltage that can recharge a phone or other small device.

The technology used to harvest the power could also be used to collect energy from other sources including satellite signals, Wi-Fi or sounds.

Source: Duke University.


Teeny tiny windmill power

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A minute windmill with the ability to fit on a grain of rice could provide power for electrical devices.

In fact the windmills are so small – only 1.8mm at their widest point – that up to ten of them could squeeze onto a single grain of rice.

Wind created by moving a phone with tiny devices on would generate the electricity that could be collected by the phone’s battery. You can see a video of a windmill in action here.

Source: University of Texas Arlington.


Power up with vibrations

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When you throw your phone down on the passenger seat of your car and drive off, the vibrations from the car automatically charge you phone.

Engineers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, US, have created a nanogenerator that can harvest and convert vibration energy.

These vibrations could be from any source, from a vehicle’s engine to an overly zealous washer/dryer.

Source: University of Wisconsin-Madison.


Rice-based phone batteries

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Rice husks could well become standard ingredients in batteries. While not being a way of directly recharging your phone, the husks could be used to power batteries.

The outer-shell of rice is made up of 20% silica, an oxygen and silicon combination.

The silicon could be used for high-capacity lithium batteries, giving products such as mobile phones and laptops a longer time between charges. The researchers behind the advances have apparently already received interest from battery makers.

Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.



How diamonds could make your computer faster and more powerful

Future computers could use diamonds to make them more powerful. Far from creating diamond-studded desktop,s the precious mineral has for the first time been used in wire to transmit information.

A group of scientists from Ohio University, US, managed to demonstrate that information can flow through a diamond wire, using a process called ‘spintronics’.

The researchers found that electrons did not pass through diamond as they do in traditional electronics but rather passed along a magnetic effect called ‘spin’ – much like a crowd performing a Mexican Wave at an event.


“To a scientist, diamonds are kind of boring, unless you’re getting engaged.”


Chris Hammel, from the university, said that diamond is an effective material for transferring information by spintronics as it doesn’t hold heat, is electrically insulating and resistant to acids.

He said: “Basically [the diamond], it’s inert. You can’t do anything to it. To a scientist, diamonds are kind of boring, unless you’re getting engaged.

“But it’s interesting to think about how diamond would work in a computer.

“If this wire were part of a computer, it would transfer information. There’s no question that you’d be able to tell at the far end of the wire what the spin state of the original particle was at the beginning.”

The researchers say the discovery challenges the way spin has been studied for the last 70 years.


“If this wire were part of a computer, it would transfer information”


The experiment was the first time that spins have been able to be seen in a diamond. To be able to see the spins taking place the scientists had to cool the wire to -269°C, which slowed them down and made them visible to the technological equipment.

They also had to spike the wire with nitrogen atoms to break carbon bonds in the diamond to allow the spin to happen and pass down the wire.

One of the most promising potentials for the use of the diamond wire comes with the cost. Unlike extortionately expensive diamonds used for jewellery the wire only cost $100. The costs could also be decreased with mass production of the wire.

The reason behind the diamond wire being so cheap is due to it being made from synthetic diamond rather than naturally created diamond.

Hammel said: “The fact that spins can move like this means that the conventional way that the world measures spin dynamics on the macroscopic level has to be reconsidered—it’s actually not valid.”

The researchers’ work first appeared in the journal Nature Technology.


Image courtesy of Kim Alaniz via Flickr / Creative Commons Licence .