Researchers at the University of Princeton say that with every brisk step that a human being takes, they can produce about 70 watts’ worth of power. Dr Michael C. McAlpine and his colleagues believe that the energy that we produce through the movements of our body could be used to help charge electrical items such as music players and cell phones, among other devices, in the future.

The team at Princeton say that they have managed to print piezoelectric crystals onto flexible material which would be used as the base of shoes. When these crystals are bent, they produce an electric current, and it is this form of energy which the researchers say could be use to help charge our electrical items when we’re on the go.

For all electricity is so widely available and is just about everywhere we look, there are those inevitable times when we just don’t have access to that electricity. I cannot tell you how many times I have been stuck far away from a power socket, only to see that my iPhone has 10% battery remaining, or that my iPod is about to cut out on me as I sit in the socket-less economy class of a plane. This theory suggests that we should print these crystals onto the rubber-like material, use that material as the base of shoes, and as we walk, electricity will be produced and we can therefore charge our electrical device with no power socket at all.

Dr. McAlpine and his colleagues have already started to develop protoypes, in which the crystals are first created “in a series of narrow ribbons, on a rigid substrate of magnesium oxide”, The New York Times reports. Within the crystals, tiny wires are placed, therefore allowing the electricity to be harvested. To finish the process, an additional layer of PDMS would be added, both to protect the device and to protect the human body; as the crystals contain lead, it would be pretty negligent otherwise.

What’s even more exciting is, that although the energy produced by the shoe theory is enough to help power electrical devices, a more powerful generator is a potential concept which could be implanted into the body, producing even more electricity for more heavy duty items and for other human uses.

I was very excited when I read this on The New York Times website today. It is a very ambitious concept, and it would make life much easier, but I have a couple of concerns. Firstly, would I need to permanently have my electrical device connected in some way, and would it have to wired directly to my shoes? Wires dangling all over me could well steer me clear of the idea, and having a device permanently connected would prove some problems if I want to use it at the same time. If I didn’t have to have my device permanently connected to the energy source, would I connect it when my device ran out of battery or was about to run out of battery? Clearly, this idea has some flaws; if I’m sitting in an airport during long delays and I’m constantly using my iPhone, if I want to charge it I would need to walk around the airport terminal. Obviously, this becomes tiring, and exactly how much charge would the concept provide, and how long would it keep my device charged for? How expensive will it actually be? Other than these concerns, I’ll be extremely interested to see how this technology turns out, and will be even more interested to find out how well it catches on.

Are you excited about this concept? Would you consider charging your device in this method? Would this make your life easier? Do you have any dead-battery experiences? Do you think that this is a good or bad idea? Have you tried other on-the-go charging methods, like portable solar panels? What is your opinion? Let us know, in a comment.

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