Harnessing Muscle Power for Portable Devices

Generating energy to power devices from muscle movements may just be the next big thing to make wireless mobility truly mobile. On one side there is the efforts on in the field of increasing the power capacity of batteries. At the same time there is immense research going on in powering devices by converting the effort put into physical activities.

An excerpt from Technology Review
A team of engineers has developed a modified knee brace that captures energy that would otherwise have been lost while the wearer walks. The generator produces about five watts–enough to power 10 cell phones simultaneously.

“If you want power, go where the muscles are,” says Max Donelan, a professor at Simon Fraser University, in British Columbia, who led the research. “We thought, maybe there’s a smart, selective way to do energy harvesting when muscles are normally decelerating in the body.” Donelan’s research appears in the February 8 issue of the journal Science.
By careful observation of the motions and forces applied for walking, Max Donelan has conceived an idea on capitalizing on the positive work done in executing a part of the walking motion and switching the device off when it could add more effort.

Perhaps there is a cue here to how to think of solution to our energy problems in actually first seeing where energy is getting wasted. The concept used here is similar to the one used in hybrid cars that convert the kinetic energy from braking to charge batteries instead of having them dissipated as heat energy (friction).

The new device could come really handy in field operations and a less heavy model may well be a precursor to similar tech down the line.

A video of the Knee Power Generator is available at YouTube.