NZ researchers build wearable generators

By on
NZ researchers build wearable generators
The University's hand-pumped soft generator. Credit: University of Auckland.

Lighter, more flexible electronics for 'artificial muscles'.

Bioengineers from the University of Auckland have developed cheap, lightweight rubber power generators that could harvest up to a Watt of power if embedded in shoes.

The researchers built on ‘dielectric elastomer generator’ technology that used the movements of a flexible, non-conductive material to build up charge in attached electrodes.

Typically thought of for harvesting energy from ocean waves, dielectric elastomer generators – also called ‘artificial muscles’ – traditionally involved a range of external electronics for power supply and energy storage.

The Auckland researchers aimed to replace those bulky, heavy parts with flexible, integrated components that would be more easily embedded in clothing.

“Conventional electronics are quite hard and heavy,” explained Thomas McKay of the University’s Biometrics Lab.

“What we want to work towards is something that’s wearable ... but that might be a few years away yet.”

While other, international research groups looked to exploit the piezoelectric effect for motion-powered electronics, McKay said ‘artificial muscles’ were far cheaper to manufacture.

He further explained that piezoelectric materials favoured quick motions, while artificial muscles were more suitable for “large, slow motions” like those performed by humans.

In a paper in Applied Physics Letters this week, the Auckland researchers described building a 110-millimetre-wide, plunger-shaped generator capable of producing 10 milliwatts of power.

By replacing an external, high-voltage power supply with new, flexible ‘dielectric elastomer switches’ developed by mechatronics engineer Ben O’Brien, the team reduced the generator’s weight by 10 kilograms.

McKay estimated the hand-pumped generator to have cost NZ$5 ($3.70) to manufacture, and an additional NZ$20 for its Perspex case, noting that it comprised commercially available rubber and carbon grease.

“One of the most exciting features of the generator is that it's so simple; it simply consists of rubber membranes and carbon grease mounted in a frame," he stated.

"We've developed a low-cost power generator with an unprecedented combination of softness, flexibility, and low mass. These characteristics provide an opportunity to harvest energy from environmental sources with much greater simplicity than previously possible."

Copyright © iTnews.com.au . All rights reserved.
Tags:

Most Read Articles

You must be a registered member of iTnews to post a comment.
| Register

Poll

How should the costs of Australia's piracy scheme be split?
Rights holders should foot the whole bill
50/50
ISPs should foot the whole bill
Government should chip in a bit
Other
Flash is heading towards its grave, and that's...
Great! Good riddance
Sad! Flash had some good qualities
Irrelevant. I don't care
What's Flash?
View poll archive

Whitepapers from our sponsors

What will the stadium of the future look like?
What will the stadium of the future look like?
New technology adoption is pushing enterprise networks to breaking point
New technology adoption is pushing enterprise networks to breaking point
Gartner names IBM a 'Leader' for Disaster Recovery as a Service
Gartner names IBM a 'Leader' for Disaster Recovery as a Service
The next era of business continuity: Are you ready for an always-on world?
The next era of business continuity: Are you ready for an always-on world?

Log In

Username:
Password:
|  Forgot your password?