Projects: Overview

CrankCharge1

There’s been a lot in the news about green energy. Many companies have even cropped up around this premise. The truth of it is that we are sooo wasteful, that ‘harvesting energy’ is not as difficult as it sounds. You just need to look at things a little more creatively.

For example, recently I was asked to cool down a product that our customers handle a lot. It really is too hot to be handling all of the time. So, I tried the typical approaches first.

  1. Redesigned heat sink with optimum fin spacing to allow more airflow
  2. Increased surface area within reason for manufacturability.
  3. Added heat spreading material

But none of them seemed to do the trick when I prototyped them.

(Switching gears)

I was prepped and ready to go on my 14 mile run. I had a full charge on my phone. Nike Plus and Pandora going… all other applications were closed. At about mile 13 I noticed the battery getting really low. I shut off Pandora and ran the rest of the way. Right at the end, I pressed the ‘end run’ button and my phone died. I managed to capture the whole run, but I need to figure something out if I’m going to run the 19 miles to work. Better yet, my 30 mile goal for daily runs!

I then thought of three different ways to generate consistent power to charge my phone.

  1. Wind-up
  2. Kinetic
  3. Piezo

To begin, I purchased a shake flashlight and a rotary generator flashlight. I’ll write posts on each of these designs later.

(Now we’re back)

To begin putting together my phone charger, I started to look up Linear Technology’s ‘Power Harvesting’ chips. They can harvest power from AC sources (kinetic generator), DC sources (Wind-up), and also thermal!? Once I saw that, I immediately thought of my heat sink problem and realized that I could extract the thermal energy from our product and power a micro-fan to blow cool air over the heat sink… This can make the heat sink 10 times better than it was! No batteries, no plugs… literally using the wasted heat to power my heat sink… sooo cool! So far I’ve ordered the parts… I’ll let you know how it goes.

There is so much wasted energy around us, and so many opportunities to capture and reuse it. Fortunately, companies like linear technology are right on pace with this technology and make designer’s lives easier… now the hard part is connecting the dots and seeing the solutions. Let’s be creative!

If anything were possible… what would you want for your run?

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