New Battery Charges Itself from Vibrations
You know the flashlights that charge themselves by shaking a piece of metal back and forth inside them? Now imagine taking that technology and putting it in a battery the size of a postage stamp that runs off any vibrations in the environment.
Researchers at MicroGen Systems, an energy startup in New York, have done just that.
MicroGen is developing a battery that incorporates four chips with small cantilevers — about 1 centimeter squared — that respond to even the smallest vibrations. When they oscillate back and forth, it causes piezoelectric material at the base to create an electric current that can be harvested and stored in the on-board battery .
The amount of electricity these self-charging batteries produce is quite small, but their small size means that many can eventually be grouped together to create more power. The other advantage is that the batteries can harvest energy from the natural vibrations that surround us in the natural world and in the machinery we use every day.
One proposed application for MicroGen's battery is tire pressure sensors. The government has mandated them in all new vehicles, and the natural vibrations of tire motion could easily allow the battery to power the sensors. Current sensor batteries must be changed every three years, but the MicroGen batteries could potentially last the lifetime of the car.
MicroGen hopes to begin mass production of their self-charging battery in about a year, and the company believes that economy of scale means that they will only cost about a dollar each.