The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office just published a patent filed by Apple in June titled "Harnessing Power Through Electromagnetic Induction Utilizing Printed Coils." This technology could be used to power devices through movement meaning Apple could possibly be setting the stage for including such technology in future iPhones, iPods and iPads.
From the patent filing:
"Systems for harnessing power through electromagnetic induction utilizing printed coils are provided. A system can include one or more moveable magnets adjacent to printed coils on a circuit. For example, a system can include one or more magnets that are operative to move alongside a circuit board that includes printed coils. The one or more magnets may move, for example, when a user shakes the system or when the user walks or runs while holding the device. The movement of the one or more magnets may create an electromotive force (e.g., a voltage) across the printed coils, and this force may be used to generate electric power."
Electromagnetic induction itself is not groundbreaking or new, researchers are also working using the technology to charge electric vehicles wirelessly, but Apple's design is. The patent details printing copper coils the same way that circuit boards are printed, in dense layers, which would allow this type of system to be squeezed in to a device the size of an iPhone. When the coils are paired with a signal moveable magnet array, then power can be generated that could help extend the life of the device's battery or, maybe one day farther down the line, provide a lot of the device's power.
Often exciting patents like these surface, but nothing ever comes of them, but TechCrunch thinksYour text to link... there are a couple reasons to believe that this one could be in Apple gadgets sooner rather than later. "First, it seems obvious that the company is looking for ways to maximize its device battery life, as evidenced by it taking the reins on the A6 chip design. Second, a WSJ report from last year that detailed a lot of accurate information about the iPhone 4S also said that Apple was “experimenting” with new features including new methods for charging, for inclusion in future phone models."