Vibration packs aim to replace batteries for gadgets
- 21 July 2010
- From the section Technology
A Japanese electronics firm has shown off a vibration-harvesting generator that could replace standard batteries.
The Vibration Energy Cell batteries deliver power after a vigorous shake
Brother Industries, better known for its line of printers, claims the devices could be used in place of AA or AAA batteries for some applications.
At an event in Tokyo, the firm showed the device powering a TV remote control, a remote switch for a lamp and an LED torch.
The mechanism works similarly to that of a bicycle light dynamo, only in this instance movement from a few shakes provides the energy to power.
"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 idea behind the technology is to remove the need for toxic rechargeable batteries and other disposable batteries that can harm the environment, said the company.
So far, two of the AA sized prototypes developed produce a voltage of 3.2V or lower, which is just enough to charge low power consumption device such as TV remote controls.
Despite the low power, Carl Telford an analyst at electronics business consultants Strategic Business Insights, says 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 the hope of making them self-sufficient.
Amongst others, American company TenXsys Inc. is now developing its Kinetic Energy Scavenging technology for various application including those for the military.
And UK mobile operator Orange recently revealed its Power Wellies, created in collaboration with renewable energy experts GotWind.
Using a "power generating sole" the boots convert heat from the wearer's feet into an electrical current.
This "welectricity" can then be used to re-charge a mobile phone. Twelve hours of stomping in the Orange Power Wellies will give enough power to charge a mobile phone for one hour, according to the company.
Brother claims no such effort is needed to power its batteries.
A TV remote control would require a power-inducing shake after 10-30 button presses says Brother.
"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.
There are no plans to commercialise the batteries as yet, according to Brother.
"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."