We’ve covered the concept of kinetic energy before and have even seen it put to work at a Sainsbury grocery store, where vehicles in the parking lot power the checkout line. Now researchers at the University of Bristol in the U.K. are taking energy harvesting to the next level with a device that can use the tiniest vibrations to generate power.
Current energy-harvesting devices can only function if a certain number of vibrations per second are achieved, making it impossible to harvest energy from, say, human movement, which is inherently unpredictable. The researchers’ new device can gather energy from a much wider range of vibration frequencies, opening up kinetic energy to a whole new world of applications.
So where can we expect to see kinetic energy-powered devices in the future? Bristol researchers speculate that just a few milliwatts of power could be harvested by their device to power MP3 players, cell phones, heart monitors, and more. In many cases, the device could replace the need for batteries.
We probably won’t see kinetic energy powering big machines any time soon, but it could be invaluable in places where hard wiring is next to impossible–i.e. as an engine temperature sensor in vehicles. The energy-harvesting device will be ready within five years, at which point the battery industry might want to up its game.