Taking Power to a New Level

Move over wind, wave and solar energy! According to an article in the New York Times, there is a new renewable energy source in town. And it’s an energy source that you can generate through everyday activities. What is it you ask?

Well, J. Maxwell Donelan, a professor and researcher at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, created a device that harvests power from the simple act of walking. This contraption, which contains a clutch, generator, gears, and a control system, looks somewhat like a high tech knee brace.

How Does the Device Work?

The device uses the same principles as how regenerative brakes charge batteries in a hybrid car – namely, the regenerative brakes collect energy that would normally be released as heat when a hybrid car slows down. In the same way, this device collects the energy that is usually lost when muscles work to slow the knee down after taking a step forward.

Since the energy is harvested towards the end of a walking stride when the leg muscles are working to slow the leg, the walker does not feel any “drag” when walking. Instead, the device may actually relieve some of the effort that is involved with slowing the body’s muscles down. How very helpful indeed!

Just How Much Energy Do These Devices Create?

Well, if you have one of these devices on each of your legs and walk at an average pace, you will produce about five Watts of energy. Not bad! This amount of power is enough to sustain thirty minutes of cell phone talk time.

Potential Uses

While walking may not power your entire house anytime soon, this new way of capturing energy does have many practical uses. Besides charging cell phones and operating portable electronics, this new invention can run insulin pumps, prosthetic limbs, and other power assisted medical devices. Military applications are promising as well since many soldiers currently carry approximately thirty pounds of batteries to operate of all their high tech gadgets.

Lastly, this new type of power can help areas of the developing world where people do not have access to reliable or any electricity for that matter.

Donelan plans to market this device through his new company, Bionic Power Inc, http://www.bionic-power.com/ within the next 18 months.

Now if scientists can only come up with a device that harvests power from my naps!

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