Cell phones could soon be powered by conversations

The more you talk, the longer your cell phone battery will last — that’s the future scientists have predicted with a new technology that converts sound to electricity.

Scientists from Korea have turned the main ingredient of calamine lotion into a tiny material that converts sound waves into electricity, reports Discovery News.

The research could lead to panels that can charge a cell phone from a conversation or provide a boost of energy to the nation’s electrical grid generated by the noise during rush hour traffic.

Using zinc oxide, the main ingredient in calamine lotion, Young Jun Park, Sang-Woo Kim and their colleagues created a field of nanowires sandwiched between two electrodes. The researchers blasted that sandwich with sound waves, which at 100 decibels were not quite as loud as a rock concert. A normal conversation is about 60-70 decibels.

The sound waves produced a mild electrical current of about 50 millivolts. The average cell phone requires a few volts to operate, several times the power this technology can currently produce.

“Just as speakers transform electric signals into sound, the opposite process — of turning sound into a source of electrical power — is possible,” Discovery News quoted Young Jun Park and Sang-Woo Kim, the two corresponding authors of the new article, as saying.

“Sound power can be used for various novel applications including mobile phones that can be charged during conversations and sound-insulating walls near highways that generate electricity from the sound of passing vehicles,” the co-authors added.

The study has been published in the journal Advanced Materials.


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