Anthony Mutua, a 24-year-old Kenyan, invented a shoe-powered charger that is at once a great advance in “green” power and a declaration of independence from traditional electric utility infrastructure. Insert the slim crystal chip into your soles and it produces electricity from pressure, sending it to a phone or iPad rental via a thin cord. Mutua says the product will last three years, and plans to sell it for under $50.
Tom Krupenkin and Ashley Taylor, engineering students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, have developed a different version of “in-shoe power generation” that harvests thermodynamic energy (body motion and, again, footsteps). Their company, InStep NanoPower, is moving forward quickly, with the device shipping sometime in 2013. This system could one day produce enough power for you to rent laptops and never plug them in anywhere else.
More “personal” energy ideas
CRE, already committed to green principles, encourages responsible activity in both private life and business. Alternative energy sources, as well as more efficient use of current ones, holds out great promise for a truly sustainable future. Further, the more people that go “off the grid” to personally power their mobile devices, the better. Here are a few other green-power solutions being developed on the “personal scale” for everything from tablet PC rentals to phones:
Capturing sonic energy—Sound vibrations (we hope their Good Vibrations) are converted to usable electricity by a piezoelectric component in a mesh fabric, as demonstrated at the UK’s Glastonbury Festival in 2012. T-shirts with a “piezo pocket” kept concert-goers’ phones charged up while the music kept the people charged up.
Soaking up Old Sol—Solar panels on backpacks (Ralph Lauren) and other form factors (like Vivian Muller’s Electree) are effective alternatives if you live in a sunny clime. If you keep your MacBook or PC charged up this way, you can “piggyback” your cell phone and charge it via your laptop’s USB port, too.
Using your head (and legs)—A German firm, Silverback, has debuted its line of “Starke” bicycles that will charge your devices as you pedal. Their marketing materials refer to “long rides” a few times, so this solution is for veteran bikers, not noobs. If you’re not charging, say, your cell phone on that “long ride” to the office, the power will not be wasted—it’ll keep the headlight battery charged, so you’ll never buy another. Win-win-win!
Worldwide, the need for connectivity keeps growing, including third world nations where power sources are undependable, scarce, or nonexistent. For those in advanced nations, personal-scale solutions like the Starke bikes encourage exercise while reducing energy demand. CRE will keep you posted on alternative energy sources as part of our “green technology” coverage—check it out, there’s great information there!