Recharge Your Cell Phone by Taking It For A Walk

Wilmington, MA-based @Ventures is one of the key players in an $8 million Series A funding round announced today by M2E Power, which is developing technology that could help energize mobile gadgets by transforming motion into electricity.

@Ventures partner Rob Day says the Boise, ID, company is already testing portable micro-generators, the size of D-cell batteries, powered by the motion of magnets that slide back and forth near coils of copper as a person walks (or a vehicle jostles). That’s standard physics—magnetic induction is at the core of virtually every generator ever built. But M2E says its scientists, who are based at the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory, have come up with a unique design that extracts five to seven times as much power from the process as competing kinetic-energy-based generators—enough to double the battery life of mobile devices such as cell phones or GPS receivers.

“If you take one of those shake flashlights and rattle it really hard for a long time, you can get a little bit of light out of it,” says Day. “These guys have figured out a proprietary architecture for the magnets and the coils that gives you a whole lot more efficiency, so you are able to generate a lot more power with less motion. Imagine having to plug in your cell phone a lot less because just wearing on your hip in the course of normal activity gives you hours of talk time.”

M2E isn’t the first organization to try to extract electrical power from everyday motion. The Office of Naval Research has funded work at the University of Pennsylvania on a backpack-sized machine that converts mechanical energy into stored power, and students at MIT’s Department of Architecture won an international award this summer for their design for a a “responsive flooring” system that would generate electrity from the vibration produced by a moving crowd.

What’s unique about M2E’s devices is that they’re small enough to be packaged into the same form factor as a conventional, commercial battery. According to Day, the company is working with defense contractor General Dynamics to produce a battery-shaped microgenerator that soldiers could carry into the field, potentially cutting back on the 10 to 30 pounds of batteries they must often carry to power radios, night vision equipment, lasers, mine detectors, GPS receivers, and other devices and sensors.

M2E’s funding round was led by Seattle-based OVP Venture Partners and also involved an early-stage venture investing fund in Boise called Highway 12. OVP brought @Venture in “as clean-tech experts,” says Day.

To date, M2E Power has kept a low profile—the company doesn’t even have a website. But with the money from the Series A round, the company will soon be ready to emerge onto the market, Day says. “They’ve done bench and treadmill testing at Boise State University,” he says. “This funding round is going to help them fully commercialize the technology.”

Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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2 responses to “Recharge Your Cell Phone by Taking It For A Walk”

  1. Krassen Dimitrov says:

    :)) That’s just silly… What’s next? Biofuels from your own blood sugar?

  2. Yes, that is basically a kinetic energy collector such that walk time -> talk time. Another idea for clean power generation is the solar method used by Citizen in the Eco-Drive (R) watch i wear. Love’m GPD