We all know that a good powerful battery is the most essential factor for appropriate performance of any electronic equipment, but what is of real concern is that the frequency of usage of such equipment gets greatly limited by the act of getting these batteries replaced or recharged from time to time. How many times have we frustrated over the dying battery power when our laptops or mobile phones have gone off, leaving us no option but to wait for an appropriate destination to get it recharged? Over the years the disposal of used batteries also has grown into a major environmental concern as when discarded carelessly, the content of heavy metals and other hazardous substances in batteries can contaminate water and soil, which in turn harm the human body. However, the battery technology is about to undergo an innovative transition with the concept of wearable energy harvesters for generating power to batteries.
A group of researchers in at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute's Biomimetics Lab in New Zealand has come up with an innovative concept of converting movement from humans into battery power. The researchers studied that a type of variable-capacitor generators known as dielectric elastomer generators (DEGs) can be adapted for harvesting wearable-energy. Dielectric elastomers, referred often as artificial muscles, are stretchy materials competent enough to generate energy when deformed. Earlier these artificial muscle generators required massive rigid and expensive external electronics but the team corrected this. As Thomas McKay, a Ph.D. candidate working on soft generator research at the Biomimetics Lab, explains, the elimination of the rigid external electronics was possible ”by integrating flexible electronics - dielectric elastomer switches - directly onto the artificial muscles themselves. One of the most exciting features of the generator is that it's so simple; it simply consists of rubber membranes and carbon grease mounted in a frame.”
As noted in the findings which are published in the American Institute of Physics' journal Applied Physics Letters, the soft generator could be inconspicuously built into the clothing and thus harvest electricity from human movement. Furthermore, McKay and his colleagues at the Biomimetics Lab are effectively trying to create soft dexterous machines that comfortably interface with living creatures and nature in general.