German researchers show kinetic energy harvesting systems for wearables

Technology News |
By Nick Flaherty

“If you want to harvest the body’s energy of movement, the challenge is that power generation must not require any additional effort from the user,” says Christian Pylatiuk from the KIT Institute for Applied Informatics (IAI). With his team, the physician has developed two systems that meet these requirements. A structure for the lower extremity utilizes the body weight while walking. Under the heel and foot bales of the walking person, a small liquid-filled cushion is attached. During the walking movements of the feet, oil is pumped back and forth between the cushions through a thin hose, and drives a piston, similar to a tidal power plant in miniature format, which in turn drives a generator. Pylatiuk has currently installed the mini-electricity unit in a foot prosthesis that supports the movements of the wearer. However, it would also be possible to put the mechanism in a sports shoe and use the energy to power a tempo trainer or performance diagnostics, said Pylatiuk.

Researchers in China recently showed a bracelet that could also capture that erratic energy: BRACELET GENERATES POWER FROM NATURAL MOVEMENT

Another generator from the Karlsruhe research team can be worn at the wrist like a watch. The special challenge here: To operate a generator, the rather erratic arm movements need be transformed into a uniform motion. Pylatiuk has used a tried-and-tested technique: The mode of operation is similar to that of an automatic watch. In contrast to the clockwork where the energy is stored by means of a flywheel tensioning a spring, an induction motor is active in which an eccentric is moving a magnet back and forth in a coil. The maximum power of 2.2 milliwatt is not yet enough to operate a hearing aid or recharge a smartphone. But, “We are currently working on a more powerful version for the consumer sector,” says Pylatiuk. The results are expected by the end of the year.

Both devices are currently on show at the Kinetic Lab of the Museum of Energy of the Future at the Expo 2017, which takes place in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana until September 10th.

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