How Motion-powered Electronics Work

Will innovative technology make it possible for this runner to power her MP3 player with her own movements? See more green science pictures.
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As a 21st century human, you probably have quite an intimate relationship with electronic gadgets. From toothbrushes to iPhones, we fill our lives with a seemingly unending string of gizmos -- all of which depend on electricity to give us the tunes, data and vibrations we need to make it through the day.

Naturally, this brings with it a rather fierce dependency on battery chargers, adapters and power packs. Gotta score that electricity somehow, right? But even in situations where electricity seems scarce, energy is plentiful. It courses through our world, there for the taking. So why, in an energy-rich environment, should we ever have to deal with a dead cell phone battery?

That's the basic idea behind the newest breed of motion-powered electronics. If waterwheels and windmills can transform naturally occurring motion into electricity, then why not capitalize on the motion of the human body? This concept has led to such conservation-minded schemes as using pedestrian footsteps to power streetlights or powering whole dance clubs with the rhythmic thrashing of its revelers.

If either of those large-scale ideas were even feasible, then surely a morning jog would be enough to power a personal music player, right? The prospect is especially attractive given the increasing demands for leaner and more responsible energy usage.

In this article, we'll look at the emerging technology of motion-powered electronics.