Good vibrations: the phone that charges when you move

It’s now possible to charge your mobile phone using the natural vibrations that surround it on a daily basis.

A team of engineers from multiple universities have created a nanogenerator to harvest and convert vibration energy from a surface – such as the passenger seat of a moving car – into power for the phone.

The technology could have any number of uses, from being able to charge devices in environments where a regulated power supply is not available – such as disaster zones where power lines have been damaged – to reducing energy use and environmental pollution.

Xudong Wang, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, US, said the developments could solve the problem of smartphones having to be charged on a frequent basis.

He said: “We believe this development could be a new solution for creating self-charged personal electronics.”

In an age where we are using more and more energy to power devices, homes and electronic products, this development could help to reduce pollution as well as decrease our dependence on fossil fuels.


“We believe this development could be a new solution for creating self-charged personal electronics.”


There are more than 1.5bn smartphones in the world and the average amount of energy it takes to power an iPhone or Android for a year is 1 Kilowatt-hour – equivalent to ten 100-watt incandescent lightbulbs running for an hour.

If introduced to phones in the market, the technology could help to save colossal amounts of power each year. In theory it could also be implemented into other devices but may struggle to be used in static devices that do not experience many vibrations.

In a post on its website the University explained how the team worked around traditional problems: “Rather than relying on a strain or an electrical field, the researchers incorporated zinc oxide nanoparticles into a PVDF thin film to trigger formation of the piezoelectric phase that enables it to harvest vibration energy.

“Then, they etched the nanoparticles off the film; the resulting interconnected pores – called “mesopores” because of their size – cause the otherwise stiff material to behave somewhat like a sponge.”


If introduced to phones in the market, the technology could help to save colossal amounts of power each year.


The team envisage that the nanogenerator, the full name of which is ‘mesoporous piezoelectric nanogenerator,’ could become an important part of electronic devices.

They suggest it could be used as a back panel or casing on the product. This is as well as being able to harvest energy from the surroundings of the device.

Wang says the simplicity of his team’s design and fabrication process could scale well to larger manufacturing settings.

“We can create tunable mechanical properties in the film. And also important is the design of the device because we can realize this structure, phone-powering cases or self-powered sensor systems might become possible.”

DJI’s First Drone Arena in Tokyo to Open This Saturday

Consumer drone giant DJI will open its first Japanese drone arena in the city of Tokyo this Saturday, providing a space for both hardened professionals and curious newcomers to hone their flying skills.

The arena, which covers an area of 535 square metres, will not only include a large flying area complete with obstacles, but also offer a store where visitors can purchase the latest DJI drones and a technical support area where drone owners can get help with quadcopter issues.

The hope is that the arena will allow those who are curious about the technology but currently lack the space to try it out to get involved.

“As interest around our aerial technology continues to grow, the DJI Arena concept is a new way for us to engage not just hobbyists but also those considering this technology for their work or just for the thrill of flying,” said Moon Tae-Hyun, DJI’s director of brand management and operations.

“Having the opportunity to get behind the remote controller and trying out the technology first hand can enrich the customer experience. When people understand how it works or how easy it is to fly, they will discover what this technology can do for them and see a whole new world of possibilities.”

Images courtesy of DJI

In addition to its general sessions, which will allow members of the public to drop by and try their hand at flying drones, the arena will also offer private hire, including corporate events. For some companies, then, drone flying could become the new golf.

There will also be regular events, allowing pros to compete against one another, and drone training, in the form of DJI’s New Pilot Experience Program, for newcomers.

The arena has been launched in partnership with Japan Circuit, a developer of connected technologies, including drones.

“We are extremely excited to partner with DJI to launch the first DJI Arena in Japan,” said Tetsuhiro Sakai, CEO of Japan Circuit.

“Whether you are a skilled drone pilot or someone looking for their first drone, we welcome everyone to come and learn, experience it for themselves, and have fun. The new DJI Arena will not only serve as a gathering place for drone enthusiasts but also help us reach new customers and anyone interested in learning about this incredible technology.”

The arena is the second of its kind to be launched by DJI, with the first located in Yongin, South Korea, and detailed in the video above. .

Having opened in 2016, the area has attracted visitors from around the world, demonstrating serious demand for this type of entertainment space.

If the Tokyo launch goes well, it’s likely DJI will look at rolling out its arena concept to other cities, perhaps even bringing the model to the US and Europe.

For now, however, those who are interested can book time at the Tokyo arena here.

Commercial Human Spaceflight Advances Prompt Calls for Space Safety Institute

Commercial human spaceflight has been a long-held dream, but now it is finally poised to become a reality. Companies including Virgin Galactic and SpaceX are inching ever closer to taking private citizens into space, and there are serious plans for spaceports in several parts of the world, including Hawaii, the US, and Scotland, the UK.

But while the industry is advancing, the legal side of this fledgling commercial space industry remains underdeveloped, leading to calls for the development of an organisation to establish a framework for the safe operation of spaceports for human commercial spaceflights.

Writing in the journal New Space, Mclee Kerolle, from the United States International Institute of Space Law in Paris, France, has proposed the establishment of a Space Safety Institute recognised by the US congress and the United Nations.

This institute would “develop, enforce and adopt standards of excellence”, allowing the industry to develop while protecting it from liability and insurance risks.

“Currently, no international regulatory body exists to regulate the operation of spaceports,” he wrote. “This is unfortunate because while the advent of commercial human spaceflight industry is imminent, a majority of the focus from the legal community will be on regulating spaceflights and space access vehicles.

“However, the regulation of spaceports should be viewed in the same light as the rest of the commercial human spaceflight industry.”

The article focuses particularly on the establishment of a spaceport at the Kona International Airport in Keahole, Hawaii. At present, the spaceport’s development is subject to regulation by the Federal Aviation Authority, however there are aspects to spaceport development that do not apply to conventional aviation operations.

A spacesuit design for commercial flights developed by SpaceX. Featured image: SpaceX’s proposed spaceport for its conceptual interplanetary transport system. All images courtesy of SpaceX

The institute would be designed to first and foremost ensure safety within the industry, so it would be important, according to Kerolle, to ensure it was made up of individuals with expertise in the field, rather than bureaucrats.

“To make sure that this flexibility is inherent in a Space Safety Institute, the organization should be composed of individuals within the industry as opposed to government officials who are not familiar with the commercial human spaceflight industry,” he wrote.

“As a result, this should protect the commercial human spaceflight industry to some liability exposure, as well as promote growth in the industry to ensure the industry’s survival.”