Lets face it, we all have more and more gear that requires batteries these days. Our GPS units need to be recharged, we have headlamps that require juice, and who the heck leaves home without their iPod these days? The problem with taking all that gear into the backcountry is that you either need to carry extra batteries, or find a way to charge your items that have their own batteries built in. Your GPS doesn’t do much good when you’re out on the trail and it dies on you, and lets not even go into that same situation with our iPods. *shudder*
Well, where there’s a problem, a solution is soon to follow. In this case, it comes in the form of a backpack with “piezoelectric shoulder straps”. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “isn’t the Piezoelectric Era when all the t-rex’s died out?” Well, in this case, piezoelectric is a process in which otherwise wasted ambient energy is converted into electric energy which can then be used to power our devices. In this case, the rubbing of the shoulder straps from a backpack as we hike is enough to generate power for all those wonderful gadgets we need to take along with us these days.
The system has been demonstrated by engineers from Michigan Technological University and Arizona State University, who say that the straps would work like any other backpack strap, but they would also harvest energy as we move. Furthermore, they hope to create similar energy from other gear, such as shoes, that could be used to power our electronics.
Of course, this is mostly a theory at the moment, and there are no working prototypes just yet. But even now, I’m sure someone is working on a pack to take advantage of this technology. Someone over at The North Face most likely. After all, they did come up with the heated hydration system.
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