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Could Your Shoes Power Your Cellphone?

Could an energy-harvesting device implanted into the sole of your shoe produce enough juice to power your cellphone, MP3 player or laptop? That’s the vision of researchers Tom Krupenkin and J. Ashley Taylor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who are developing a system that could do just that.

Their innovation hinges upon an idea called “electrowetting”, in which a droplet of a conductive liquid is placed on an electrode and is deformed by the application of electric charge. But Krupenkin took the concept in a different direction, what the researchers call “reverse electrowetting.” In this case, microscopic droplets are placed between multilayer thin films; as the droplets move — in this case, from the energy of a shoe landing on the ground — energy is produced. This energy can then be harvested to power just about anything.

Credit: Written by John Platt
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