Make a noise – and recharge your cell!

Posted on 01 July 2016.

Along with Microsoft, two London academics have improved the performance of photovoltaic cells using decibels. And simultaneously invented a process for recharging smartphones from ambient noise.

Piezoelectricity, or the ability to recover energy from the vibrations causes by sound, walking, or dancing... has its disciples worldwide.

What do The Beatles’ “Ticket to Ride” and Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” have in common? At first sight not much. But... using piezoelectricity principles – electricity produced through pressure or tension on materials - two researchers at the Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) made an incredible discovery: the vibrations created by pop or rock music improve the performance of photovoltaic panels. So, Dr. Joe Briscoe and Dr. Steve Dunn decided to go further.

Nanorods 50,000 times finer than a hair

In collaboration with Microsoft, these British Gyro Gearloose inventors created an energy recovery prototype that will turn out to be very useful for smartphones users. It recharges the batteries from daily background noise such as music, road traffic and even the sound of your own voice.

To achieve this feat, the two British scientists first produced solar cells with zinc oxide, which becomes the piezoelectric current emitting material. Then they created nanorods 50,000 times thinner than a human hair, again from zinc oxide. These were then covered with an active polymer that converts light into electricity to make a nanogenerator.

Solar rock & pop

Result: the efficiency of the photovoltaic cells is up to 40% better with certain frequencies. Hard luck for the neighbors if perchance this innovation were one day to equip your smartphone! Because the two researchers discovered that their decibel greedy nanogenerator is at its most efficient when in contact with pop and rock hits. Don’t panic -75 dB is enough for it to generate an electric current. The equivalent of the noise made by a vacuum cleaner.

But before rushing to the next concert to satisfy your cell’s appetite, this technology will have get out from under its cover!