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.”

The internet: the $2.2 trillion answer to global poverty

Millions of people can be lifted out of poverty and trillions of dollars can be added to the GDP of developing countries by increasing the number of people who are connected to the internet, a new report has said.

Commissioned by social media behemoth Facebook, the study  found that $2.2 trillion in GDP can be created along with 140m jobs, which will lift 160m people out of poverty, as well as saving millions of lives.

It says increased internet access would be able to deliver critical information on nutrition, hygiene and disease prevention to those who need it the most.

Once people are connected to the internet they are able to gain access to basic tools such as health information, financial services and education, which can help them live better lives and move into the world’s economy.

The 56 page report was produced by professional service firm Deloitte on behalf of the social media company and the Internet.org movement.

The movement, which includes Nokia, Opera, Samsung, Qualcomm and Mediatek as founders, seeks to develop and provide technology that decreases the cost of delivering data to people worldwide. It also wants to expand internet access to everyone.

Currently internet penetration in developed countries such as America and Singapore is around 74% and is significantly higher than areas like India (13%), and Africa (20%). This equates to just 800m out of the 3.8bn people in the countries covered by the study having access to the internet at present.

The study says: “The world’s unconnected are more likely to face challenges related to high levels of poverty and limited social inclusion. Income levels are a key barrier to internet access, and internet penetration is often the lowest in countries with the lowest GDP per capita.”

The benefits of being able to access the most basic information – which could be provided in a low data-intensive text based forms – would help to improve the lives of millions of people around the world.

Out of the regions covered by the study, India would be boosted by 65m new jobs, which would lead to an increase in the rate of growth of GDP by 110% and decrease extreme poverty by 28%.

Connectivity providing health information to those living in Africa could save almost 1m lives lost to general health issues and increase the lifespan of 2.2m HIV and AIDS patients.

The report says: “As a global partnership, Internet.org is working to harness the experience, wisdom and resources of people and companies across the world to understand and solve the challenges of the connectivity gap. Driven by this goal, Facebook engaged Deloitte to assess the economic and social impact of extending Internet access in the developing world.

“This report is the outcome of that initiative. And Deloitte’s conclusions are compelling: global connectivity will help lift millions out of poverty and drive important positive social and economic change.”


Image courtesy of Charles Fred / Flickr under Creative Commons.