A group of Queen Mary University of London researchers have been working with Nokia Corporation (NYSE:NOK) to develop a way to find a way to extend smartphone battery lives by recharging them on the go, turning your voice (and other vibrations) into an electric current. The trick is to coat the phones with zinc oxide nanorods connected to the battery with nanowires.
“When this surface is squashed or bent, the nanorods then generate a high voltage. This means they respond to vibration and movement created by everyday sound e.g. our voices. If you then put electrical contacts on both sides of the rods you can use the voltage they generate to charge a phone,” say the researchers, reports Jay McGregor at Forbes.
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New tech could be a big hit for Nokia
Handset manufacturers have improved battery capacity and chip efficiency, but some applications can still drain your battery at alarming speed. If Nokia Corporation (NYSE:NOK) (BIT:NOK1V) (HEL:NOK1V) manages to develop a smartphone that never has to be plugged in, that could be an absolute game changer. But even if they don’t get all the way there, just finding a way to extend battery life would have enormous appeal. If people could pay a small premium to double their battery life with the special nano-coating, it seems like that would be an immediate hit.
Assuming Nokia Corporation (NYSE:NOK) owns all of the intellectual property (which seems reasonable, but isn’t obvious from what’s been announced) they could bring in a lot of extra revenue by licensing the technology to smartphone manufacturers (Nokia sold its handset division to Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT).
Turning heat and vibrations into usable energy
Even though the technology is different, the general strategy of using ambient sources of energy to charge something is reminiscent of a common tactic used by electric vehicle manufacturers like Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA). To extend battery life, electric vehicles use heat generated by the car’s brakes to recharge, which is why you get such better performance in cities compared to the open highway (the opposite of internal combustion engines). As scientists get better at turning heat and vibrations into usable energy, we may find that more and more of our gadgets become truly cordless. It’s not the sort of thing that scales very well, so it’s not a solution to large energy use issues, but it should make tech a lot more convenient.