The Sounds Around You Could Soon Charge Your Phone’s Battery

Sitting in a noisy bar, caring for screaming children, or watching the ball game — all awful locations to make a phone call, but soon these scenarios could actually help charge the battery of your cell.

New collaborative research by Queen Mary University of London and Nokia shows that the piezoelectric zinc oxide — which creates a voltage as it expands and contracts — can be used to create coatings that could help power portable devices. The scientists have a developed a nano-rod form of zinc oxide, which can be applied to the surface of other materials.

Those nanorods respond to everyday noise, microscopically expanding and contracting and in turn creating a voltage. That can be captured by electrical contacts on either side of the rods and could be used, in theory, to charge a phone or some other portable device.

We say in theory — but actually, the team has created a prototype device, attempting to save costs and to see whether it is actually viable as a technology. They developed a means of spraying the zinc oxide onto the kinds of plastics you might find on a phone, and swapped the traditional gold contacts on zinc oxide devices for humble aluminium.

Ultimately, they made a prototype that’s about the same size as a Nokia Lumia 925 and is capable of generating five volts when exposed to loud noise. While that might not provide the fastest charge in the world, it’s still an amazing achievement — and one that could at least help our phones last longer between charges in the future. [Queen Mary University of London via Mashable via Gizmodo UK]