Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Technology uses micro-windmills to recharge cell phones

Date:
January 15, 2014
Source:
University of Texas at Arlington
Summary:
Electrical engineers have designed a micro-windmill that generates wind energy and may become an innovative solution to cell phone batteries constantly in need of recharging and home energy generation where large windmills are not preferred.

One of Rao's micro-windmills is placed here on a penny.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of Texas at Arlington

A UT Arlington research associate and electrical engineering professor have designed a micro-windmill that generates wind energy and may become an innovative solution to cell phone batteries constantly in need of recharging and home energy generation where large windmills are not preferred.

Smitha Rao and J.-C. Chiao designed and built the device that is about 1.8 mm at its widest point. A single grain of rice could hold about 10 of these tiny windmills. Hundreds of the windmills could be embedded in a sleeve for a cell phone. Wind, created by waving the cell phone in air or holding it up to an open window on a windy day, would generate the electricity that could be collected by the cell phone's battery.

Rao's works in micro-robotic devices initially heightened a Taiwanese company's interest in having Rao and Chiao brainstorm over novel device designs and applications for the company's unique fabrication techniques, which are known in the semiconductor industry for their reliability.

"The company was quite surprised with the micro-windmill idea when we showed the demo video of working devices," Rao said. "It was something completely out of the blue for them and their investors."

Rao's designs blend origami concepts into conventional wafer-scale semiconductor device layouts so complex 3-D moveable mechanical structures can be self-assembled from two-dimensional metal pieces utilizing planar multilayer electroplating techniques that have been optimized by WinMEMS Technologies Co., the Taiwanese fabrication foundry that took an initial interest in Rao's work.

"The micro-windmills work well because the metal alloy is flexible and Smitha's design follows minimalism for functionality." Chiao said.

WinMEMS became interested in the micro-electro mechanical system research and started a relationship with UT Arlington. Company representatives visited with the UT Arlington team several times in 2013 to discuss collaboration.

An agreement has been established for UT Arlington to hold the intellectual properties while WinMEMS explores the commercialization opportunities. UT Arlington has applied for a provisional patent.

Currently, WinMEMS has been showcasing UT Arlington's works on its website and in public presentations, which include the micro-windmills, gears, inductors, pop-up switches and grippers. All of those parts are as tiny as a fraction of the diameter of a human hair.

These inventions are essential to build micro-robots that can be used as surgical tools, sensing machines to explore disaster zones or manufacturing tools to assemble micro-machines.

"It's very gratifying to first be noticed by an international company and second to work on something like this where you can see immediately how it might be used," said Rao, who earned her Ph.D in 2009 at UT Arlington. "However, I think we've only scratched the surface on how these micro-windmills might be used."

The micro windmills were tested successfully in September 2013 in Chiao's lab. The windmills operate under strong artificial winds without any fracture in the material because of the durable nickel alloy and smart aerodynamic design.

"The problem most MEMS designers have is that materials are too brittle," Rao said. "With the nickel alloy, we don't have that same issue. They're very, very durable."

The micro-windmills can be made in an array using the batch processes. The fabrication cost of making one device is the same as making hundreds or thousands on a single wafer, which enables for mass production of very inexpensive systems.

"Imagine that they can be cheaply made on the surfaces of portable electronics," Chiao said, "so you can place them on a sleeve for your smart phone. When the phone is out of battery power, all you need to do is to put on the sleeve, wave the phone in the air for a few minutes and you can use the phone again."

Chiao said because of the small sizes, flat panels with thousand of windmills could be made and mounted on the walls of houses or building to harvest energy for lighting, security or environmental sensing and wireless communication.

He added that it has been fulfilling to see his former student succeed and help move innovation toward the marketplace.

"To see a company recognize that and seek you out for your expertise speaks volumes about what UT Arlington means to the world," he said proudly.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Texas at Arlington. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Texas at Arlington. "Technology uses micro-windmills to recharge cell phones." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 January 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140115074336.htm>.
University of Texas at Arlington. (2014, January 15). Technology uses micro-windmills to recharge cell phones. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140115074336.htm
University of Texas at Arlington. "Technology uses micro-windmills to recharge cell phones." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140115074336.htm (accessed July 29, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Baluchistan Mining Eyes an Uncertain Future

Baluchistan Mining Eyes an Uncertain Future

AFP (July 29, 2014) Coal mining is one of the major industries in Baluchistan but a lack of infrastructure and frequent accidents mean that the area has yet to hit its potential. Duration: 01:58 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Easier Nuclear Construction Promises Fall Short

Easier Nuclear Construction Promises Fall Short

AP (July 29, 2014) The U.S. nuclear industry started building its first new plants using prefabricated Lego-like blocks meant to save time and prevent the cost overruns that crippled the sector decades ago. So far, it's not working. (July 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Lithium Battery 'Holy Grail' Could Provide 4 Times The Power

Lithium Battery 'Holy Grail' Could Provide 4 Times The Power

Newsy (July 28, 2014) Stanford University published its findings for a "pure" lithium ion battery that could have our everyday devices and electric cars running longer. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming

The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming

AP (July 28, 2014) AP Investigation: As the Obama administration weans the country off dirty fuels, energy companies are ramping-up overseas coal exports at a heavy price. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins