This is one of those inventions that sounds too weird to be real. The Australian Centre for Energy and Greenhouse Technologies, a privately-run, government-sponsored investment group focusing on the development of sustainable energy tech, announced late last month that they are putting money into something called the Kinetic Energy Cell, a device which captures the energy of movement to produce electricity. The original design came from CRC for microTechnology, an organization founded in 1999 to jumpstart Australia's technology industries.
The prototype designs are about the size of a 9 volt battery, and CEGT sees the possibility that the kinetic energy cell will replace batteries in some functions. Few details are available about precisely how this thing works, however, and I can't find any research material online talking about the idea. Anyone have a good link?
Sounds like a variation on the self-winding watch. There's a little pendulum connected to a ratchet, basically, and as the device moves back and forth the pendulum winds up a spring.
Without reading any more into this, I presume it is just (or based on) an electric dynamo. By placing a wire (usually a coil) within a magnetic field and moving the wire relative to the field, a voltage is induced in the wire which then drives the little electrons within the wire to move and a current is established. The current can be used to power another device or charge a cell. This is the same concept used in the Prius hybrid when the battery is recharged during breaking and the reason why the car doesn't need to be plugged in. Some of the kinetic energy from the rotating wheels is transduced into electric energy instead of into heat from friction between the pads and the wheel. The underlying physical principles are explained by Faraday's law. Check out the link for a more exciting (mathematical) explanation. It's not a new concept, but I would say it is definitely underutilized. Any research into further applications may produce great things.
The article says it includes exciting innovation in coil construction, which sounds like its one of those jobs where you have a magnet that can slide back & forth in a tube, and the tube is wrapped in a coil of wire. The moving magnetic field induces a current in the coil, and then you can have a capacitor/battery/other storage medium to hold the power. There are flashlights that work like this-- the Micro Forever Flashlight: http://www.foreverflashlights.com/?source=googleppc
I sacrifice a 9v battery-sized attachment to my cell to trickle charge it. I second the above comment.
I have done a little thinking about attaching one of those magnet and coil flashlights to a bike wheel. Attached one to my bike a couple of different ways and got some movement of the magnet when I spun the wheel. Haven't figured out how to attach a battery or supercapacitor but that shouldn't be too hard.
Theoretically, you should be able to ride your bike and have one of these "self-generators" charge batteries en route.
about the bike charger...
already has one in existence!
this tech has been around for many years. my dad had one that was powered by his movement, but once he wore while operating a jack-hammer... it's been fast every since.
anyway, here's a 2002 patent that took 3 years to get through the patent office: