Body warmth to charge your phone

Sensemaking / Body warmth to charge your phone

02 Mar 2011

Phone’s copper ‘skin’ takes on the warm glow of its owner

It's one of the great irritations of our time. You set off and realise that your mobile phone is almost out of battery. No one can reach you; you'll inevitably miss a train, and there'll be no way to let the office know you're going to be delayed.

But what if simply slipping the phone back into your pocket could make it all alright? Because the heat from your body would charge it right back up…

A British designer, Patrick Hyland, has worked with Nokia to develop a concept phone called the E-CU: that's 'E' for eco and 'CU' for copper. It's encased in a highly conductive copper 'skin', engraved with a pattern resembling cracked earth to increase the surface area.

The casing transmits the heat to a thermogenerator inside, which then converts it into electricity. The phone can be charged by placing it next to any source of heat: by your radiator, on your snoozing cat, or simply in your pocket. It's another example of the growing trend in harnessing power from the human body alone, whether through heat or motion (see 'Kinetic energy converters step up').

There are 62.5 million mobile phones in the UK alone, and as their applications increase, they're becoming all the more energy-hungry. The need to charge them without mains power is prompting a rush of solutions, from wind-up chargers, to solar PV, to mini-hydrogen fuel cells. As Hyland sees it, designs like his have huge potential to prevent waste. "Fifty-one thousand tonnes of mobile phone chargers alone are wasted annually", he says. "This can be prevented with self-chargeable appliances."

Hyland recognises that, for now at least, thermal energy is a rather specialist, underdeveloped form of power. "But there is a demand", he asserts. "I certainly didn't expect the reaction [my idea] got after I posted it on the web."

- Shirley Mann

Image credits: none

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