Innovative Ways We Could Be Recharging Our Devices

Researchers around the global are exploring innovative ways to sustainably recharge the billions of edge devices attached to the global ICT infrastructure. Experiments use everything from plants to urine . (You may have to reload page to display videos.)

The BBC reported in July 2015 that "Scientists at Cambridge University are investigating how algae and land plants could be used to create a 'biological solar panel' that could help power devices including smartphones." Click to view the video.

The Daily Mail reports in May 2015 that Chile's E-Kaia prototype USB charger "...that harnesses energy from soil and converts it into power for mobile devices. A single plant can charge a smartphone in around an hour and a half..." View video to the right.

The Daily Mail notes that this is not new technology. "...the first 'battery' to be created from soil was actually devised in 1830 known as the Daniell-cell battery, which was later demonstrated by inventor Alexander Bain in 1841. "

University of the West of England's (UWE) Bristol Robotics Laboratory is working " recover useful levels of electrical energy directly from urine, and thus convert an existing – entirely unexploited – waste into a sustainable fuel for the future, with concomitant clean water production." The laboratory reported in July 2013, "The team has recently demonstrated for the first time the charging of a commercially available mobile phone, using Microbial Fuel Cells (MFCs) fed with real neat urine."

The UWE press release expnads, "...the microbial fuel power stack that we have developed generates enough power to enable SMS messaging, web browsing and to make a brief phone call. Making a call on a mobile phone takes up the most energy ...The Microbial Fuel Cell is an energy converter, which turns organic matter directly into electricity, via the metabolism of live microorganisms. Essentially, the electricity is a by-product of the microbes' natural life cycle, so the more they eat things like urine, the more energy they generate and for longer periods of time...The electricity output from MFCs is relatively small and so far we have only been able to store and accumulate these low levels of energy into capacitors or super-capacitors, for short charge/discharge cycles. This is the first time we have been able to directly charge the battery of a device such as a mobile phone and it is indeed a breakthrough."

A UWE video published in 2014 shows a prototype urinal charging a phone.