The simple sound of life all around us might be the key to making “plugging in” a thing of the past. A new energy-harvesting prototype has been found to produce energy, through the use of noise, in amounts great enough to charge mobile phones. Yet another discovery of the ways sound engineering and acoustical engineering can impact modern-day living.
Dr. Joe Briscoe and Dr. Steve Dunn from QMUL’s School of Engineering and Materials Science discovered last year that pop and rock music could be used to improve the performance of solar cells; their research was published with the Imperial College London. With the more recent collaboration of scientists from Queen Mary University of London and Nokia, new developments have led to the possibility that background noise including traffic, television, or the sound of our own voice may be a viable energy source.
Nokia worked with the QMUL team to create the energy-harvesting prototype. This prototype, a nonogenerator, uses the key properties of zinc oxide in the form of nanorods. When the zinc oxide is stretched and squished, a voltage is created by the conversion of energy from motion into a usable, electrical source.
Nanorods respond to everyday sounds because of the motion and vibration. With a coating on the nanorods, electrical contact can be made on both sides of the rods, allowing them to effectively harvest enough voltage to charge a cell phone.
The discovery of this process included a zinc oxide application to a plastic sheet – sprayed on like paint. The mixture, when heated to 90°C, allowed the nanorods to grow on the surface of the sheet. Gold is commonly used as an electrical contact, but because the team was looking to save money in their research process, they came up with a way to use aluminum foil instead.
The result of their research: a device similar in size to a Nokia Lumina 925 that can generate five volts – enough to charge a mobile phone. Dr. Briscoe explained,
“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.”
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Source: Science Daily, Wonderful Engineering