July 21, 2010

Firm Invents Vibration Powered Energy Cells

Japanese electronics firm Brother Industries has created a vibration-harvesting generator that could replace standard batteries.

The Vibration Energy Cell batteries deliver power after a vigorous shake.

The firm claims the devices could be used in place of AA or AAA batteries for devices.

Brother Industries showed off the device at an event in Tokyo, powering a TV remote control, a remote switch for a lamp and an LED torch.

"Our Vibration Energy Cells generate electricity using a coil, a magnet, and condenser that charges electricity. These are all embedded in the battery," a Brother spokesman told BBC News.

"Because of its low output this type of cell is designed to be used for things such as TV remote controls and LED devices, which consume low power and do not consume electrical power continuously."

The company said that the idea behind the technology is to remove the need for toxic rechargeable batteries and other disposable batteries that can harm the environment.

Two of the AA sized prototypes developed produce a voltage of 3.2 volts or lower, which is just enough to charge low power consumption devices like TV remote controls.

Carl Telford, an analyst at electronics business consultants Strategic Business Insights, said that despite the low power, the batteries are a significant break through with much potential.

"It's great because they will work OK in a low-power application for AA batteries that one can shake without breaking; a remote control, for example," he told BBC News.

"Of its size, it is small, compact, and directly compatible with existing power sources. Brother says that it can produce enough power at reasonably low frequencies, around 4-8Hz - this is impressive."

"Walking with a device in your pocket would vibrate with a frequency of around 2Hz. You'd need to shake the remote quite briskly, but it would work."

Other researchers are also working on motion-generated and alternative power for gadgets and electronics in hopes of making them self-sufficient.

TenXsys Inc. is now developing its Kinetic Energy Scavenging technology for various applications including those for the military.

U.K. mobile operator Orange recently revealed its Power Wellies, which were created with the help of renewable energy experts GotWind.

The boots use a "power generating sole" to convert heat from the wearer's feet into an electrical current.

This "welectricity" can be used to re-charge mobile phones.  According to the company, 12 hours of stomping in the Orange Power Wellies allows for enough power to charge a mobile phone for an hour.

Brother Industries says that this effort is not needed in order to power its batteries.

Brother says that a TV remote control would require a power-inducing shake after 10-30 button presses.

"It does not matter how long you shake it. It depends on the number of shakes, and how you shake. It varies depending on the force - long swing or short swing or speed of swing, etc - you put in to shake the remote," the spokesman said.

According to Brother, there are no plans to commercialize the batteries yet.

"Currently the cells are still in the trial phase and so far we do not have a clear business plan for this item. However, we will continue to monitor the market to make a business plan when needed."


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