New technology could power electronics with sound

By on May 9, 2011, 4:46 PM

South Korean electrical engineers are developing a technology that could recharge your phone battery with the sound of your voice, according to the Telegraph. Dr. Sang-Woo Kim said that various approaches for gathering energy from the environment have been explored, but sound has been overlooked as a source. As such, Kim and his associates at Sungkyunkwan University's Institute of Nanotechnology in Seoul are determined to convert energy from speech, music and other background noises into electrical power.

Beside the concept of charging your handset while chatting, Kim noted that there would be many practical applications for such a technology. For instance, sound-insulating walls near roads could generate electricity from the sound of passing vehicles. For homes or businesses near a busy highway, this would also present the additional benefit of reducing unwanted noise from the traffic. Thinking about other mobile platforms, imagine being able to extend your laptop's battery life by listening to your favorite song.

The technology works by placing a sound-absorbing pad on strands of zinc oxide that are sandwiched between two electrodes. Sound transferred through the pad causes the zinc oxide wires to compress and release, creating an electrical current. While the technology isn't too refined yet, Kim said an existing prototype can generate about 50 millivolts of electricity from 100 decibels of sound. It remains to be seen whether the technology can be polished enough to charge consumer electronics, but Kim is hopeful.

He believes that using a different material for the wires could produce more energy with less noise. "Our current output performance can be applied to various electronic devices with low-power consumption such as self-powered sensors and body-implantable tiny devices. We believe that we can realize more efficient sound-driven nanogenerators," Dr. Kim said. The Telegraph noted similar energy-scavenging technologies such as a heartbeat-powered MP3 players and a Nokia device that harvests energy from movement.




User Comments: 26

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Trillionsin Trillionsin said:

When my phone isnt in use, I dont want it picking up any kind of sounds... I want the microphone to be turned OFF when I hang up. Just my opinion.

red1776 red1776, Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe, said:

Hmmm...I wonder who's phone here would recharge the fastest? ....I'm just sayin.

TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

"I wonder who's phone here would recharge the fastest?"

Any woman. :p

Basher said:

The microphone isn't going to be involved at all. Literally everything around you is already picking up these vibrations, they just aren't doing anything with them. This is just an attempt to make electricity out of something that is constantly around us, not being utilized.

Guest said:

Something about the conservation of energy makes this improbable for a few of their "practical" applications.

Trillionsin Trillionsin said:

Basher said:

The microphone isn't going to be involved at all. Literally everything around you is already picking up these vibrations, they just aren't doing anything with them. This is just an attempt to make electricity out of something that is constantly around us, not being utilized.

Good point... still capabilities of this technology could still record all sound... maybe that would defeat the purpose though.. recording sound would require power... hmm.. well whatever happens I dont want all my drug talkin' going out on cell phone towers. LOL

Modeazy said:

Oh I love alternative energy!Hope I live long enough to rock 'em!

yRaz yRaz said:

New format: Electricity.

First it was tapes, then CD's, MP3 players. Now we will have electricity players.

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

"...hold on, my battery is dying ...AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
A AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH....Ok, so what are you wearing again baby?"

" Earplugs. "

Tekkaraiden Tekkaraiden said:

Apparently a jackhammer at 3 feet is 100dB.

treetops treetops said:

Wouldn't it be awesome if we could harness the sound of the earth moving.

abe10tiger abe10tiger, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Hooray! All I have to do is babble to charge mah phone. lol. xD

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

"I wonder who's phone here would recharge the fastest?"

Any woman. :p

Spanish cultures have a custom of women who are paid to cry at funerals and such, called "lloronas". Perhaps this could be a side business for them, gang charging cell phones.

Wouldn't it be awesome if we could harness the sound of the earth moving.

What would be even more awesome is, if the earth actually did move, when your girlfriend told you it did.....

Guest said:

Thinking about other mobile platforms, imagine being able to extend your laptop's battery life by listening to your favorite song.

Uhhh... I'm not sure it works that way. The amount of power you're using to play said favorite song will be greater (probably much more so) than the amount of power you will get back from the sound waves and vibrations. In other words, you're using a net more energy. Plus, speakers are meant to push sound waves away from a device and towards the user; since very little of it will feed back into the device, there's an even greater loss there.

Better to just not play the song and let environmental sound waves and vibrations help keep your battery charged if battery power is your concern.

Playing your favorite song for the sake of playing your favorite song is something else entirely, of course.

matrix86 matrix86 said:

trillionsin said:

Basher said:

The microphone isn't going to be involved at all. Literally everything around you is already picking up these vibrations, they just aren't doing anything with them. This is just an attempt to make electricity out of something that is constantly around us, not being utilized.

Good point... still capabilities of this technology could still record all sound... maybe that would defeat the purpose though.. recording sound would require power... hmm.. well whatever happens I dont want all my drug talkin' going out on cell phone towers. LOL

I don't think you understand how this works. Sound is not being recorded. This works off of the vibrations from the sounds (sounds are nothing but pitches which are nothing but frequencies which are nothing but vibrations produced at different levels). So what is essentially happening is that the thing is picking up the vibrations from the frequencies all around us (a music note, a hum of a car engine, a squeak from the brakes of an 18 wheeler, the dinging of an elevator, the hum of a hard drive or fan, and I can keep going but it would take up a whole comment page, lol). There are sounds all around us and this machine is picking up the frequencies of those sounds and using the vibrations of those frequencies to create electricity. You also have to remember that it's the charger that's "recording" the sounds, not the actual device being charged.

The big issue is will this charger produce more input of power than what the device it's charging is giving out. Not to mention that the charger may also be different depending on where you are (in a quite room listen to music compared to being out by the road with heavy traffic and a businesses playing music outside). I could very well be wrong about this part, but from what I read, this seems like a possible limit on this technology. Does it charge the same in a room with little noise when compared to a room with a lot of noise?

Like I said, I could very well be wrong in my theories here, but this is what makes the most sense to me. The way I see it, either:

1.) I'm wrong. This would suck, but as long as there is substantial proof, i'm not afraid to admit i'm wrong

2.) I'm partially right. This would be cool but i'd love to hear what I missed and/or got wrong

3.) I'm completely right. This would be pretty friggin sweet :P

Guest said:

Looks like they are finally using the old principle that every microphone is built on to store the produced energy instead of converting it to data/sound for recording. Basically *any* microphone creates a current when its diaphragm is moving from picking up sound. 50 millivolts sounds about right; this is why we need microphone preamplifiers to boost the tiny signal to something useful before we can record the sound. But I guess they will have to find a way to just get more juice out of a moving diaphragm by itself if they want to use it as a source of energy.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

But I guess they will have to find a way to just get more juice out of a moving diaphragm by itself if they want to use it as a source of energy.
Or phones that use less energy.

On the other "hand", why not bring back the swinging counterweight that they used to use in self winding watches? Then all you need do is hand the phone to a teen aged boy, along with a copy of Playboy. Er, that would be the "fast charger" option.

Archean Archean, TechSpot Paladin, said:

treetops said:

Wouldn't it be awesome if we could harness the sound of the earth moving.

Or the other option, which would be CMBR as it is all around us.

Guest said:

Oh no... now it's gonna give more reasons to some women to never shut up... :((( I'm already in pain... :(

Guest said:

there is always the practical application of simply extending the life of the battery via a trickle charge, I see no reason why the device would need to be able to fully charge a battery quickly. If you're listening to your favorite song, perhaps you could listen to a few more as the battery is charging while your creating noise... but as for energy input, I don't see how it could ever keep pace with the energy drained.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

tI see no reason why the device would need to be able to fully charge a battery quickly. If you're listening to your favorite song, perhaps you could listen to a few more as the battery is charging while your creating noise...
That's sort of silly isn't it? Making noise while your favorite song is playing?

ikesmasher said:

captaincranky said:

tI see no reason why the device would need to be able to fully charge a battery quickly. If you're listening to your favorite song, perhaps you could listen to a few more as the battery is charging while your creating noise...
That's sort of silly isn't it? Making noise while your favorite song is playing?

facepalm.

Guest said:

I can generate more than 100mV just by hanging onto a couple of wires. This is voltage and not energy.n ie. volts x buggerall amps = buggerall energy. A small amorphous solar panel will produce significantly more energy. Better still get hold of a grank dynamo and you will actually get enough energy to make a call. This principle was pioneered by Traeger in Australia around 1920 for outback communication and it works well.

Was this story started on April 1st. I expect so. There are always plenty of dills around to pass it on.

Guest said:

If you lose your phone in the forest and a tree falls, will it charge your phone?

Guest said:

"...hold on, my battery is dying ...AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
A AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH....Ok, so what are you wearing again baby?"

" Earplugs. "

Thanks made me LOL :D

Rasta211 said:

Everyone at a concert or at a game stadium would get free power!

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