A breakthrough battery that charges itself has been named one of the top innovations of the year by Physics World magazine.
The battery, developed by Zhong Lin Wang and colleagues at the Georgia Institute of Technology, converts the kinetic energy from motion into chemical energy, which can then be used to power any device. By placing the battery on the bottom of a shoe, for example, it could generate energy with every step.
You've probably heard about similar technologies, but all other systems of this nature require two processes. The new system achieves it in just one. The first research on this new battery was published in August 2012 in the journal Nano Letters.
Until this new system was developed, capturing kinetic energy required converting mechanical energy into electricity, which would then be converted into chemical energy for long- or short-term storage. This new method skips a step and converts energy from motion directly into stored chemical energy.
"This is a project that introduces a new approach in battery technology that is fundamentally new in science," Wang told Phys.org.
Not only does this new battery technology create a more efficient process — five times more efficient than current systems, Lin Wang says — it reduces the amount of size and weight of the resulting battery, making it even more portable and easy to incorporate into all manner of devices.
Right now the battery system doesn't generate all that much electricity — about enough to power a pocket calculator — but the scientists say that could be increased to the equivalent of today's 1.5V batteries. Put to use in a broader scale, they say it could produce almost unlimited electricity.
Professor Wang discussed the battery — which he calls more of a "power pack" than a simple battery — with CNN, where he demonstrated it generating electricity simply through the power of his own breath: