Charge While You Talk

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By Sean Coughlin


Are you sick of having to charge your phone all the time? There is a breakthrough that could change the lives of mobile phone users everywhere.

Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) and Nokia are collaborating on using sound waves to charge mobile devices. Many have studied this phenomenon, but last year there was a break through. Published in the journal Advanced Materials, Dr Joe Briscoe and Dr Steve Dunn from QMUL School of engineering and material science found that playing pop and rock music improves the performance of solar cells.

Developing this research further, Nokia worked with the QMUL team to create an energy-harvesting prototype (a nanogenerator) that could be used to charge a mobile phone using everyday background noise – such as traffic, music, and our own voices.

The team used the key properties of zinc oxide, a material that when squashed or stretched creates a voltage by converting energy from motion into electrical energy, in the form of nano-rods. The nano-rods can be coated onto various surfaces in different locations making the energy harvesting quite versatile. When this surface is squashed or stretched, the nano-rods then generate a high voltage. The ultimate device was the same size as a Nokia Lumina 925 and generates five volts, which is enough to charge a phone.

To this day, Dr Joe Briscoe and his team are trying to find the cheapest way to ensure building this charging device efficiently, starting with gold as the electrical contact but were able to produce a method of using the cheaper aluminium foil as the contact.

Dr Joe Briscoe commented, “Being able to keep mobile devices working for longer, or do away with batteries completely by tapping into the stray energy that is all around us is an exciting concept. This collaboration was an excellent opportunity to develop alternative device designs using cheap and scalable methods. We hope that we have brought this technology closer to viability.”

To be able to walk amongst city folk or cheer amongst crowds at a sports game could be the next Earth friendly charging method to help with any repercussions or dangerous Earthly harm. Hopefully in the near future, no more running around for a cord and charger, asking friends if they can borrow one and yet still not get a charge. All you have to do when this sound charger is out is walk, talk, party, socialise or cheer with a crowd and the charging will commence.

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