It's Murphy's Law: the more you use your phone, the less battery power you have.
But a new breakthrough could make the opposite true: the more you use your phone, the more battery life you have.
A team of Australian researchers has pioneered a technique that exploits a simple fact: every time you tap on your phone, you use a bit of energy to do so.
They turned that mechanical energy into electricity -- and, in the process, showed the way to ever-charged batteries for smartphones and all kinds of devices.
The researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne and Australian National University (ANU) combined piezoelectrics, which are materials that can convert mechanical pressure into electrical energy, with thin-film technology to generate power by tapping.
In the past, piezoelectric thin films have failed commercially because they were not able to calculate how much power would be created by a particular amount of pressure.
This ANU article quotes lead co-author Dr. Madhu Bhaskaran from RMIT:
This is the first time we have been able to say that applying a particular amount of pressure will create specific values of voltage or current. By characterising piezoelectric thin films for the first time, it takes it a step closer to the next level technology or integrating it into existing technology.
So far, she and her team, who published their result in the June 21st issue of Advanced Functional Materials, have only been able to generate small amounts of energy through the films. Their next step is to determine how to amplify the voltage while integrating them into small, low-cost structures that can be used by microchips, which are central to devices like smartphones and computers.
She expects it will be two or three years before piezoelectrics are routinely incorporated into gadgets. And at that point, it sounds like she envisions them everywhere, as she said in this Physorg.com story:
The power of piezoelectrics could be integrated into running shoes to charge mobile phones, enable laptops to be powered through typing or even used to convert blood pressure into a power source for pacemakers -- essentially creating an everlasting battery.
If that happens, then you definitely won't need the solar-powered bikini to power your phone.
photo: James Giggacher