What comes to mind when most of us think of wind power is giant turbines mounted on tall masts, usually on a high hill or out in the country, but the future of consumer wind technology may actually be found in very tiny windmills.
An innovative micro-windmill has been developed by researchers at University of Texas Arlington, and it’s so tiny that one grain of rice could hold 10 of them. Measuring just 1.8mm at its widest, these tiny wind generators could be the future of charging mobile devices, possibly through covering a phone sleeve with them and sending the generated electricity to the device’s battery.
In addition to being ultra-small, the tiny windmills are also unique in the fact that they are said to be self-assembling, and could be mass-produced inexpensively.
According to UT Arlington, the design blends “origami concepts into conventional wafer-scale semiconductor device layouts so complex 3-D moveable mechanical structures can be self-assembled from two-dimensional metal pieces utilizing planar multilayer electroplating techniques”.
“Imagine that they can be cheaply made on the surfaces of portable electronics. o you can place them on a sleeve for your smart phone. When the phone is out of battery power, all you need to do is to put on the sleeve, wave the phone in the air for a few minutes and you can use the phone again.” – J.-C. Chiao, electrical engineering professor
While we might want something like these micro-windmills to power our own gadgets, they could probably be better utilized on big panels with thousands of them, in order to power lights, security sensors, or wireless transmitters, especially in places off the grid.
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