Go for a jog, recharge your cell phone? An innovative piezoelectric device for shoes from a Louisiana Tech assistant professor may allow us to do just that in the near future.
Dr. Ville Kaajakari, assistant professor of electrical engineering at Louisiana Tech University, recently gained the attention of MEMS Investor Journal for a piece of technology he’s developed, designed to be embedded in the sole of a shoe, that harvests the power generated from the compression action of walking. MEMS, or “micro electro mechanical systems,” are tiny “smart” devices that combine computer chips with micro-components to generate electricity. Dr. Kaajakari’s device, developed at Louisiana Tech’s Institute for Micromanufacturing, makes use of new voltage regulation circuits that efficiently convert a piezoelectric charge into usable voltage for charging batteries or for directly powering electronic devices.
Piezoelectrics have been around a while, and the concept of using them to power portable devices is not new. Until this point, however, output from such devices did not generally meet the input requirements of common portables such as cell phones and MP3’s. Kaajakari’s innovation uses a low-cost polymer transducer with metalized surfaces for electrical contact, which means that, unlike similar devices with ceramic surfaces, it can fit inside the heel of a shoe with no change in user experience–but whether it can be developed to create a high enough voltage to power our most common portables remains to be seen.