Human energy to power portable electronics


Ben O’Brien with a rig used for stretching artifi cial muscles during fabrication

Technology created by researchers from The Auckland Bioengineering Institute (ABI), which makes it possible to covert human movement into battery power, could in the future enable people to charge their electronic devices while they walk.

This is because artificial muscle generator technology developed by the ABI’s Biomimetics Lab can scavenge latent energy from human motion to directly power devices and put power where it’s needed.

Dr Tom McKay, Dr Ben O’Brien, Dr Todd Gisby, associate professor Iain Anderson and other researchers from the Lab, have been working on the artificial muscle generator technology for the past six years.

Artificial muscle, the main component of the generator, is made of a rubbery material that has mechanical properties similar to human muscle and is capable of generating electricity when stretched.

“The advantage that we have over our competitors is in the small and soft circuitry that we have developed which controls the artificial muscle.

“Previously, artificial muscle generators were seen as unpractical to power portable electronic devices because they required bulky, rigid and expensive external electronics,” Dr O’Brien says.

Our artificial muscle generators because of their circuitry are lightweight, inexpensive and compact so in the future they could easily be incorporated into clothing where they could harvest energy from the wearer’s movement, he says.

“It means that people would not have to worry about the batteries on their portable devices dying out and because it would reduce the number and size of batteries required, it would mean less batteries ending up in our landfills.”

Several international companies are interested in the Biomimetic Lab’s artificial muscle generator technology.

In March this year the research was named runner-up in the Excellence in the Field of Environmental Technology Research category at Monaco’s CleanEquity investment conference.

The CleanEquity Monaco 2012 conference, sponsored by Prince Albert II, was conceived to accelerate cleantech innovation and implementation and provide expert intelligence on emerging clean technologies.

For more information:

Dr Ben O’Brien

Tel: 09 373 7599 ext 88363

Email: [email protected]