Tuesday, 02 October, 2001

More Body Power

After I posted yesterday's entry, I ran across the Slashdot posting on the topic.  Most of the comments are typical uninformed reactionary B.S. or poor attempts at humor, but there are a few good posts.  One such pointed me at this article on Human Powered Wearable Computing that appeared in IBM Systems Journal some years ago.  (You can also view the article on the IBM SJ site at http://www.research.ibm.com/journal/sj/353/sectione/starner.html.)  The article does a reasonably good job of identifying the possible ways that the human body could be used to generate power, and discusses some potential ways to harness the power.  Of particular interest to me were the discussions of piezoelectric materials and the use of piezoelectric shoe inserts to generate power--not continuous, but potentially enough to charge a small storage battery that could in turn be used directly in small electronic devices or perhaps to trickle-charge other batteries.  Granted, this isn't the "human battery" that I've been pondering over the years, but it has the same effect.

I like the idea of using shoe inserts to harness the energy because it's like free power.  Replacing the cushioning in a pair of shoes with piezoelectric materials allows you to harness energy that is normally just dissipated.  It's the same concept that shoe manufacturers use to power the LEDs in those shoes that blink when you walk.  The article Parasitic Power Harvesting in Shoes, again from the MIT Media Laboratory, explores this concept in more detail.  MIT's Media Laboratory lists a Parasitic Power project, but I've been unable to find anything more recent than the 1998 "power shoes" article.  Except for anews brief from January 2000 about a British inventor's patenting the idea.