A jacket to keep you warm and powered

Written by Phil Cogar

November 7, 2007 // 2:24 p.m.

Tags: #australia #charge #jacket #mobile #power #recharge

Keeping mobile devices charged on the go is an ongoing problem that has spawned many solutions. Some are fairly logical, like Energizer’s portable battery packs designed to charge common mobile devices, and some are a little more out there, like this nifty device that charges USB devices using the expanding of the chest.

However, Australia has just authorized a $4.4 million Australian dollar grant to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), their national science agency, to develop a jacket capable of using the body’s kinetic energy to power portable devices. The basic premise of the jacket involves two sections: a section over the shoulders containing the power generation portion of the unit, and thin, flexible batteries placed through the front and back of the jacket to store the charge.

The generation portion uses what are called Piezoelectric materials to transform kinetic energy into storable power. Piezoelectric molecules work in this basic fashion: the piezoelectric-capable material, usually types of crystals, creates electricity when it is compressed. This material is used in a variety of ways, including electric lighters and electric music devices. In the jacket, the piezoelectric sections in the shoulder of the unit will provide voltage that is then stored in the batteries integrated into the jacket. Then, via any required type of jack or connector, devices can be hooked up to and run from the batteries on the jacket.

As of now the intended market for this device, and one of the reasons the Australian government has approved the grant, is for military personnel. Enabling them to power devices that generally required cumbersome battery packs by simply moving could allow soldiers to lighten their load, or allow them to carry more equipment to aid in defense or reconnaissance. However, commercial applications are obviously highly anticipated as well, as more and more people begin to rely on mobile phones or media players.

Another market that doesn’t appear to be considered right now is the medical field – patients undergoing chemotherapy using portable devices may benefit from smaller therapy units if the battery packs are able to be moved to a garment. Diabetics who rely on insulin-testing devices could also potentially benefit from such advancements.

The two deciding factors here appear to be how much power can be generated and stored, and how weight will be affected. See what other people think in our forums.
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