Hybrid cars are interesting in that they are able to harness the kinetic energy used when braking to recharge the car’s battery. It’s technology that’s relatively new, but incredibly fascinating. It makes you wonder what kind of things could harness energy if they used this similar model.
A few years ago, some scientists developed a groundbreaking new prototype of a product that millions of people use each day to do exactly what those regenerative brakes do. What is that product, you ask? A knee brace. Imagine using a knee brace to charge your cell phone. The technology is here, and it’s amazing.
Human powered energy generators have been around for a long time. You’ve likely seen a flashlight or radio that is operated by a crank. But those aren’t super practical, because all the time you spending operating the crank could be spent doing something else. The idea behind this knee brace is to harness the kinetic energy in the background. There’s no need to focus on operating this knee brace as it simply operates every time you take a step.
It works almost identical to the way that brake regeneration in a hybrid vehicle works. Every time you come to a stop wearing the knee brace, the energy you used to come to a stop is redirected to things that require energy. The brace itself recognizes when the user is in motion, and turns itself off when the user sits down or stops moving.
The biomechanical energy harvester is attached to a standard knee brace, and is made up of a generator and an aluminum chassis.
The prototype that was developed was demonstrated by volunteers walking on treadmills, and it proved to be powerful enough to charge ten cell phones. But the developers have much more practical uses in mind.
The brace could be used by hikers or campers to charge important devices such as a GPS system or satellite phone. In areas with no electricity, being able to charge these devices without lugging around extra batteries could prove to be a huge necessity. Another idea is to use the brace to charge laptops in areas where electricity is hard to come by.
The developers even believe that they could make a design that charges prosthetic knees, which could completely eliminate the need for surgeries that are required to replace the batteries in these knees. This could save a lot of money for people with prosthetic knees, because those surgeries can be costly.
While it is just a prototype, this type of knee brace could be life changing. The developers hope to make the brace lighter and more functional. These types of knee braces could even be available in the future on websites like BetterBraces.com that provide all different kinds of knee braces.
Could you ever see yourself using one of these knee braces? Even if you don’t require a knee brace, this kind of technology allows you to effortlessly recharge whatever you need to charge without having to pay for electricity. The developers hope to see these braces available to the public within a few years.
Image credit: livescience.com