Mini Power Generator Could Make Watch Batteries DOA

Wouldn’t it be delightful to not feel a dawning sense of horror the next time you glance at your wristwatch and realize that the battery died hours ago and you’re oh-so-late for a job interview, meeting, or family engagement? Thanks to the development of mini generators at the University of Michigan, such panic-stricken moments might be rendered avoidable.

Known as Parametric Frequency Increased Generators (PFIGs), the tiny generators harvest energy through non-frequent, arbitrary vibrations: as the wearer of such a device goes about his or her day, infrequent movements provide the energy necessary to charge the device. According to the University of Michigan News Source, the generators, which measure one cubic centimeter, are able to produce up to 0.5 milliwatts from common vibration amplitudes found on the human body. “That’s more than enough energy to run a wristwatch, which needs between one and 10 microwatts, or a pacemaker, which needs between 10 and 50.”

mini generator

Image via University of Michigan

The main distinction between PFIGs and similar devices is the latter group’s reliance on repetitive and predictable energy sources, says Khalil Najafi, chair of electrical and computer engineering, who, along with Tzeno Galchev, a doctoral student in the same department, created the generator. The university is currently pursuing a patent for the technology, which, they believe, could one day be used to power remote wireless sensors, surgically implanted medical devices — whose batteries are expensive to recharge — and even to bridge sensors, the application of which would serve to warn inspectors of problems such as cracks in the structure long before the human eye could detect them.

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