The Newest Source For Phone Charging: Sound

Back to Blog  •  Posted on September 9, 2014 by admin


As mobile phone device technology advances, thin becomes thinner and 720p becomes 1080p. The latest breakthrough in smartphone design ingenuity may very well have to do with the power source. Charging is always a hassle because it is time-consuming and requires additional equipment. In the coming years, phone chargers may become collectors’ antiques.

Imagine a phone that charges itself, using nothing more than ambient background noise. This is what researchers are working on at this very moment.

Using Sound To Charge A Mobile Device

The idea of using sound waves to produce electric current in the 5V range is not a new idea. The problem has been one of functional components that are reliable and lightweight. Recently, the tekkies at Nokia, along with researchers at Queen Mary University of London have succeeded in building a workable charging unit that can actually power up a cell phone.

The key component of the design is nanowires made from zinc oxide. The effect is called piezoelectric, and the actual function involves sound waves vibrating the tiny wires to create electricity.

The nanowires are created when zinc oxide is pressed onto plastic sheets and heated in a controlled laboratory setting. The compound reshapes itself into microsized wires.

Zinc oxide, when stressed via sound vibration, produces electric current because the compound’s atomic configuration results in excited electrons when the material is warped or bent. Vibrations from sound waves cause the nanowires to buckle slightly. When researchers placed these wires between two specially molded contact sheets, a current of up to 5V – enough to power up a phone’s battery – was produced.

Cost Versus Functionality

Charging connections would no longer be needed because the battery would be supplied by wires attached to the contact sheets. This would be part of a revolutionary design change for cell phones as well as for low-powered gaming devices. The actual cost of such a charging system is not yet known because there is no technology in place for mass production. However, the idea that background noise such as vehicular traffic, music, and even human voices can keep a mobile phone charged is indeed an exciting one.

For those who become frustrated during a phone call, there could be an upside. Yelling into the phone will keep it charged and ready for use. This is not science fiction, but rather science fact. The groundbreaking work of the researchers at Nokia and QMUL may soon become part of our everyday lives, and the next step will be to work out a usable plan for recycling those ugly battery chargers.