London: Imagine generating electricity in your footsteps. Sounds
utopian. But, this could soon be a reality, say scientists who
have developed a paper-thin generator that harnesses the
mechanical energy of one’s steps. An international team says
these “living generators” use viruses to convert the soles of
one’s shoes into electricity.
So far, the generators can only create enough power to run a
small LCD panel (about a quarter of the power of a AAA battery)
— but work in the laboratory simply by tapping a finger on an
electrode, the ‘Daily Mail’ reported.
In the future, the scientists could be used to power
everything from portable electronics like phones — powered by
footsteps — to lighting systems, powered by similar panels
The viruses are harmless — built to “harness” physical
stress in an object to generate electricity. The technology
already works — at least in the laboratory, say scientists at
the US department of energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.
They tested their approach by creating a generator that produces
enough current to operate a small liquid-crystal display. It
works by tapping a finger on a postage stampsized electrode
coated with specially engineered viruses.
The viruses convert the force of the tap into an electric
charge. This generator is the first to produce electricity by
harnessing the piezoelectric properties of a biological
material. Piezoelectricity is the accumulation of a charge in a
solid in response to mechanical stress. The milestone could lead
to tiny devices that harvest electrical energy from the
vibrations of everyday tasks such as shutting a door or climbing
stairs, the ‘Nature Nanotechnology’ reported.
“"More research is needed, but our work is a promising first
step toward the development of personal power generators, and
other devices based on viral electronics”, said Seung-Wuk Lee of
the Berkeley Lab.