The technology was there for a while -- using the heat generated from shoes and transforming it into energy -- but researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology just couldn't get enough juice to do much of anything.
Enter startup InStep Nanopower, which now claims it can harvest up to 20 watts of power, according to the Boston Globe. Cellphones use 1 to 2 watts per phone call and 7 watts for browsing the web, so the microscopic films used to capture the energy may be able to sustain smartphone use. The new technology was created by two researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who launched the startup.
However, unless users are OK with a wire from their shoes to their smartphones, the shoes can't charge the phone. Instead, researchers found that most smartphone power was wasted looking for mobile hotspots, so the shoes actually have an integrated Wi-Fi hotspot transmitter which saves battery power, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. The company is still working on a way to directly charge phones, but currently the shoes work like this:
Two small pouches are filled with a fluid that is designed using nanotechnology to generate an electrical current when compressed over and over again by the up and down motion of the foot. The researchers also came up with a name for this unique process: “reverse electrowetting.”
We have heard of other shoe-smartphone integrations, but this is the first that's ready to go. We're thinking this also may be a fairly big incentive to get people to exercise. Perhaps this invention may all have us walking around more just so we can keep texting and using our favorite apps.