Energy at your fingertips: typing may soon power personal devices

Researchers propose harnessing the energy generated from typing to power touchpads and other devices.

A couple of years ago, in the days leading up to New Year's Eve, Duracell had set up an exercise center near the ball-drop in Times Square. By working out on the stationary bicycles, you actually produced power that later lit up the "2010" sign.

Great idea. What if the kinectic energy from day-to-day human activities could be captured and transferred to power lots of other things? Consider those power-hungry, battery-draining devices we use every day these days,

There are more than a billion computers and smartphones across the globe, and it can be assumed that a sizable segment are being used at any given time. Imagine if the energy that is going into all that typing could be harnessed.

That's the idea proposed by a researcher at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) and published in EETimes, suggesting that the energy that goes into typing could readily be channeled back to power devices. RMIT's Madhu Bhaskaran says an approach called piezoelectricy could produce enough electric charges, through physical or mechanical motion, to accomplish just that. Piezoelectric thin films could be laid over touchscreens.

Bhaskaran says it's a workable idea, and potentially could be commercialized as quickly as in the next three years:

"Essentially any electronic portable device that uses a battery is something which we will be looking at as a potential application. And currently the power levels that we are able to generate are around ten times less than what is required, so that's the next step; to amplify the power available."

Imagine the possibilities. No more wandering around airport waiting areas looking for an unused electrical outlet to pounce on. The ability to take computers and smartphones on camping trips or out into the wild. The ability for people in underdeveloped areas to have constantly functioning devices. No more issues with internal batteries losing their mojo.

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