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Oz Army eyes electric vibro vest to replace batteries

To 'harvest' power Matrix style from wobbling body parts

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The Australian army is looking to design a miraculous vest which generates electricity by "harvesting" the energy from its wearers' "body vibrations".

The remarkable vest, dubbed Flexible Integrated Energy Device (FIED), is intended to reduce the burgeoning burden of batteries that modern soldiers must carry to power their various optics, communications, laser designators etc.

"It will look like an ordinary garment but have extraordinary capabilities," according to Oz boffin Dr Adam Best. "As the person wearing the garment moves, the vibrations they create can be harvested and channelled into recharging the battery or powering plug-in electronic devices."

It seems the Australian defence department is sinking a cool AUS$4.4m into the electriFIED vibro vest. The cash will get the transducer fitted "to a place where energy can be harvested from the person's body", according to Best.

The human body is theoretically quite a good power source, at least in the context of personal electronics - if not that of public transport systems.

The machines had found all the power they

could ever need.

People can put out 75 watts fairly sustainably on stationary cycles coupled to generators, or as much as 150 watts over shorter periods. But it's hard to imagine that this much power gets wasted in "vibrations", unless of course one is talking about persons of unusual physique. Dr Best may be a fan of the poet Herrick, perhaps.* Or maybe Baywatch.

The American forces have lately said they would be happy with a portable system that delivered 20W on average. It seems most unlikely that Best will be able to wring this kind of juice out of a wobbly lovehandle or other oscillatory anatomical features.

Still, you can't blame him for trying. And the tech might work better in the field of civilian personal electronics, which don't normally need anything like as much as 20W. Best has his eye on non-military applications, apparently.

One day, we might all be powering our phones, iPods, head-mounted tellies etc from wired-up vests drawing juice from our wobbly bits. The machines would then truly have found all the power they would ever need.

Full coverage from IT News of Australia here. Slashdot thread (of course) here. ®

*"Next, when I cast mine eyes and see / That brave vibration each way free / O how that glittering taketh me!" - from "Upon Julia's Clothes," appropriately enough.

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