People Power!

The future may hold implantable energy-harvesting systems to turn breathing, and walking, into power.© Princeton

Move over solar-powered electronics, the next big wave for power might come from the act of breathing. Michael C. McAlpine and his colleagues at Princeton have developed a way of converting everyday body movements into electricity using a flexible electricity-producing sheet of rubber imprinted with piezoelectric crystals that can be implanted in the body. A person with this implant would be able to produce energy by breathing. The movement of the ribs used to draw air into and out of the lungs can generate about a watt of power, and it has been determined that as little as a brisk walk around the room can produce about 70 watts of power.

The problem is how to harvest this electricity. McAlpine and his team have begun to create various prototypes where tiny wires deposited on the crystals will work to harvest this energy and transfer it to electronic devices. Although we might first see this alternative energy source used in shoes, creating enough energy to power a cell phone, the plan is to eventually make a flexible power generator that can be implanted into the chest.

SOURCE: New York Times.