Micro-windmills could one day charge cell phones

micro-windmill on penny
© University of Texas Arlington

Recently it seems like there has been a rash of renewable energy ideas for charging our gadgets, especially our cell phones, but this latest technology is probably my favorite. A team of researchers at University of Texas Arlington have developed micro-windmills only one-tenth the size of a grain of rice that could one day be used to charge cell phones.

Hundreds of the 1.8 mm-wide devices could be embedded in a sleeve for a cell phone and then wind, whether by waving the phone in the air or by holding it up on a windy day, would generate electricity and charge the battery.

The devices are made out of durable nickel alloy that in testing withstood high artificial winds without any fracture in the material. They can be made in a batch process where hundreds or thousands can be made on a single wafer, which would make them inexpensive to produce.

Beyond charging our gadgets, the researchers think that the micro-windmills could also be applied to flat panels mounted on the walls of houses or buildings to harvest energy for lighting, security or environmental sensing and wireless communication.

The researchers are already partnering with WinMEMS Technologies Co., a Taiwanese fabrication company, to produce the devices.

Micro-windmills could one day charge cell phones
The tiny devices are only one-tenth the size of a grain of rice.

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