Music fans at the ongoing Isle of Wight Festival (ongoing, to Sunday 16th) are taking part of an experiment, although not of a sonic nature. British cell phone company Vodafone is using the festival to try out the Power Pocket, a wearable gadget designed to power peripherals with body heat and movement. Now, that is some kind of amazing renewable energy!
The Power Pocket is built into Power shorts and the Recharge sleeping bag, which the company developed with the Electronics and Computer Science Department at the University of Southampton. Besides the Isle of Wight festival, the company will be taking its ingenious device to other festivals that take place during the summer season of music.
The research that led to the creation of this energy-harvesting device goes back to the late 1980s, to the days of printed smart material, which was designed to be used on ceramics, says Stephen Beeby, a professor of electronic systems at the University of Southampton. In the 1990s the energy harvesting concept was introduced and the researchers brought the two together to make smart materials for energy-generating purposes.
In 2003 they started to create printed thermoelectric material, which now can be made so small it can be stitched into a pair of shorts or a sleeping bag. “Basically, we’re printing down pairs of what are called ‘thermocouples’,” explains Professor Beeby. “You print lots of those down and connect them up to make a thermoelectric module. One side of that is cold and the other is hot, and when you get a flow of heat through it you can create a voltage and a current. Voltage and current together equals electrical power.”