Energy Generating Backpack

Electric generating backpacks are the latest must have trail gear, but as loyal Treehugger readers know, there is more then one way to generate electricity. Lawrence Rome, a biologist at the University of Pennsylvania has led the development of a backpack that can generate around 7 watts of electricity, without solar cells, and actually providing a more comfortable backpack in the process. Taking advantage of vertical motion, much like some wave generators, the backpack harnesses body movements while hiking. The spring mechanism involved appears to ‘cushion’ the movement of the backpack on the wearer, leaving those who have tried it saying it is more comfortable then standard gear. The net weight gain of the device only appears to be a few ounces. Providing robust power generation on the move has long been the dream of anyone exploring the rugged wilds of our world, including rescue workers, military, and field scientists, and Treehuggers with a gadget fixation (who me?).The backpack takes advantage of the external frame design, attaching the spring mechanism between the cargo compartment and the frame. The more weight you have, and the ‘harder’ you hike, the more energy you can generate. The best part for me is that 7 watts is more then enough to power most of you equipment, a 10 mile hike could charge your cell phone, GPS, and possibly more (by my calculations). The implications are amazing, and the best part is, the device actually improves on the old ‘non-spring’ standard. From the National Geographic News:

"Why it works so well is unclear…Perhaps the device reduces the mechanical work required of muscles to walk while carrying a load."

"Imagine that you step up on a rock with a rigid backpack. That weight has to go up instantly—it can't hang on the ground. … [I]n a suspended backpack, when you step up, the load lags behind you," he [Rome] said. The effect is like that of a shock absorber, he explained.

Taking design and innovation to the next level, Lawrence Rome’s work is featured in this weeks Science (subscription). I can’t wait to get my hands on one of these packs, and wondering if this is a possible DIY device, or kit. Hike On! ::Science ::National Geographic News