Everyone who uses an eReader device will no doubt say convenience is one of the main reasons they bought the device. After all, you can have a veritable library stored in a flat little bit of tech that weighs no more than the average wallet. Often there’s just one drawback: having to charge the device.
It can be such a pain to be reading the latest best seller only to have the tension broken due to a yelping battery that requires its electricity fix. But, what if you could recharge the device by simply rubbing a spot on the eReader that boosts the battery’s charge?
That is the premise of a new innovation from boffins at Disney Research, Pittsburgh, working with the bright sparks at Carnegie Mellon University, who together have dubbed the technology the Paper Generator. What’s more, the technology relies on little more than foil and Teflon.
The idea is that as a reader or user of the device rubs or even just taps the foil which is placed over the Teflon, a current from the negatively charged Teflon to the positively charged foil is established. Teflon, due to its (already patented) properties as what is known as an electret, holds on to a charge and can do so for many years, making it an ideal material for this use. The foil incorporated in the Paper Generator is wired to the device it is meant to power and delivers that charge, lighting it up or powering its functioning parts. This is a simple set-up, and an engineering requirement that poses little trouble in terms of incorporating it for functionality or design.
A prototype of the Paper Generator has already been shown to produce around 44 milliwatts of power. While that’s never going to be able to power a high demand device, it would be enough to run an e-ink display commonly used in ebooks, and the technology of course has much wider possibilities.
“The cheapness of this technology is amazing. We can print it on the walls, tables and chairs. It’s scalable to massive sizes like no other technology. You could think about an entire building covered with this, generating power from the wind blowing past it.”
More than that, the technology has further room for innovation, such as by incorporating wider gesture recognition:
“Though the fundamental principles of operation remain the same, it’s possible to build Paper Generators that respond to a number of different gestures, such as tapping, touching, rubbing or sliding. We can imagine any number of ways to use this to add sights, sounds and other interactivity to books and other printed materials inexpensively and without having to worry about power sources.”
Disney Research seems keen to push Paper Generators for a variety of publications, and in particular for the magazine industry where it feels interactive content could be particularly useful.
Below is a video released by Disney Research that shows the technology in action at this its early stages of development:
Given that a rising proportion of our energy consumption centers around recharging handheld devices and manufacturing batteries to power our other electrical goods, Paper Generator allows us to glimpse a world in which touch energy harvesting could be a viable alternative and an important component in weaning ourselves off our more destructive energy generating practices.
Photo credit: Thinkstock.