“Shake, Rattle and … Power Up? New Device Generates Energy from Small Vibrations”

ScienceDaily brings us research from MIT: a system that can make wireless-sensor networks more practical by powering them using vibrations in the environment. I would like a laptop that I can beat into a full charge.

While uses for wireless sensors are seemingly endless, there is one limiting factor to the technology — power. Even though improvements have brought their energy consumption down, wireless sensors’ batteries still need changing periodically. Especially for networks in remote locales, replacing batteries in thousands of sensors is a staggering task.

To get around the power constraint, researchers are harnessing electricity from low-power sources in the environment, such as vibrations from swaying bridges, humming machinery and rumbling foot traffic. Such natural energy sources could do away with the need for batteries, powering wireless sensors indefinitely.

Now researchers at MIT have designed a device the size of a U.S. quarter that harvests energy from low-frequency vibrations, such as those that might be felt along a pipeline or bridge. The tiny energy harvester — known technically as a microelectromechanical system, or MEMS — picks up a wider range of vibrations than current designs, and is able to generate 100 times the power of devices of similar size.

When this sensor’s a-rockin’… I also have to do an obligatory shout-out to the soccket, a soccer ball that charges electricity as you play with it, for use in developing regions with high affinity for soccer and low access to electricity.

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