(NaturalNews) Imagine one day charging a laptop by simply chewing a piece of gum while you’re using it. What about having the ability to charge a cell phone by simply talking on that very phone? Or, think about what it would be like to eat while simultaneously producing free energy from your jaw to charge a handheld device.
Scientists have found an interesting way to convert the energy of jaw movements into something more useful. Researchers from Canada have invented a “smart material” chin strap that harvests energy from chewing and jaw movement.
Magnified on a global scale, the device could generate extraordinary amounts of free energy from everyday human activities like talking and eating, but it’s hard to imagine that people would actually wear these chin straps daily.
Device is incentive for people to chew their food more
Needless to say, scientists have figured out how to harvest what was once wasted energy.
The technology can potentially power small wearable devices, hearing aids, cochlear implants, electronic hearing protectors and communication devices. This could mean that future cell phones may rarely need to be charged, since they are being refueled every time someone talks on them. Think about the possibilities; restaurants could equip tables with these chin strap devices and harvest everyone’s collective jaw movement energy to help power the place!
The researchers found that the average meal creates enough jaw movement to average 7mW of power. If people chewed their food more, like they should, the possibility exists that free energy production could increase. With this device, there is an incentive to chew more, not only for better digestion, but also for more electricity generation.
Out of all body movement, jaw movements seem to be somewhat promising for generating electricity.
Still, the question remains: would people really wear something like this — in public or even in their own home — or would it be viewed as a bizarre, embarrassing-looking contraption? Plus, as you’ll read momentarily, the possibilities mentioned above are more far-fetched notions than ideas that may keep lights on in dining establishments — at least at this stage.
How the device works
Here’s how the researchers made the energy conversion.
Working at the Sonomax-ETS Industrial Research Chair in In-ear Technologies at Ecole de technologie superieure in Montreal, Canada, they developed a chin strap composed of piezoelectric fiber composites.
These smart materials, comprised of integrated electrodes and an adhesive polymer matrix, produce an electric charge when stretched and faced with mechanical stress. As the jaw moves the chin strap up and down, the fiber composites generate a small amount of electricity. In the experiment, the piezoelectric fiber composite (PFC) strap was attached to a pair of ear muffs. A tighter-fitting strap was found to be ideal, as more resistance led to a greater chewing force, and in turn, a better performance.
Cumbersome device falls short in key areas
In gum-chewing tests that lasted for 60 seconds, the researchers generated around 10 µW of energy but also said that they could produce 18 µW if the full head-mounted device wasn’t used. These results, although promising, fall far short of powering much of anything. That’s why the researchers are working on adding more layers to the chin strap.
“Given that the average power available from chewing is around 7 mW, we still have a long way to go before we perfect the performance of the device,” said co author of the study, Aidin Delnavaz. “The power level we achieved is hardly sufficient for powering electrical devices at the moment; however, we can multiply the power output by adding more PFC layers to the chin strap. For example, 20 PFC layers, with a total thickness of 6 mm, would be able to power a 200 µW intelligent hearing protector.”
The idea, although cumbersome, could potentially help replace expensive batteries which are also toxic to the environment.
The worst part about this device is the return on investment. It could take several years of chewing with the chin strap to recover the initial cost of investments.
Delnavaz said, “The only expensive part of the energy harvesting device is the single PFC layer, which costs around $20. Considering the price and short lifetime of batteries, we estimate that a self-powered hearing protector based on the proposed chin strap energy harvesting device will start to pay back the investment after three years of use.”
“We will now look at ways to increase the number of piezoelectric elements in the chin strap to supply the power that small electronic devices demand, and also develop an appropriate power management circuit so that a tiny, rechargeable battery can be integrated into the device,” Delnavaz concluded.