Those of you with long memories may recall Trevor Baylis, the inventor of the electric shoe. No? Well back in 2000, Trevor invented this shoe that generated electricity when you walked and could be used to charge a mobile phone, or nowadays an iPod. He wasn’t quite as barmy as he sounds, the idea could well have been as successful as his wind up radio from 1995 then went on to sell millions of sets particularly to the third world. However 9/11 and shoe bombers put to bed any idea of concealing electronics in your shoes.
But researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have an even better idea they describe as a nanogenerator. A nonogenerator utilizes tiny zinc oxide wires only 1/5000 the width of a human hair to generate electric currents according to the Financial Times. When subjected to mechanical stress such as movement, the wires generate a current -known as the piezoelectric effect – which can be collected and stored or used to power various devices such as chargers for iPods or monitoring biomedical devices. Needless to say there would be countless military applications too as the fine wires could be coated onto or woven into fabric such as tent material so they would generate energy with movement created by the wind. There are still engineering challenges around synchronizing the AC current from each of the wires to build an acceptable level of total generated current but having proven the technology conceptually, Georgia Tech thinks it is only a matter of time before commercial opportunities provide the funds for further research to resolve these issues.