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Recharging Portable Electronics One Step At A Time

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Recharging Portable Electronics One Step At A Time

Recharging Portable Electronics One Step At A Time

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. Im Michele Norris.


Im Melissa Block.

And its time now for All Tech Considered.

(Soundbite of music)

BLOCK: What if you could power your cell phone without having to plug it in -ever? Well, a tiny Cleveland startup is close to making that idea a reality. Just put the companys Personal Energy Generator on your belt or in your backpack and it will charge a portable gadget as you walk.

Dan Bobkoff of member station WCPN reports.

DAN BOBKOFF: Aaron LeMieux is a pretty powerful guy.

Mr. AARON LEMIEUX (Mechanical Engineer, Tremont Electric): I weigh about 180 pounds. Im about six foot tall. As I walk along I expend about 100 watts of power just to get from point A to point B.

BOBKOFF: And a few years ago, he was walking along the Appalachian Trail just wasting all that energy and he still had to stop in little towns to find batteries for his Walkman. For a mechanical engineer like LeMieux, this was a problem waiting to be solved.

Mr. LEMIEUX: Our mobile electronic devices like my iPhone only requires 2.5 watts of power to be able to fully recharge itself. So, in the end, all we have to do is harvest 2.5 percent of your human walking energy, without you knowing it, and to be able to put it into your mobile electronic device.

BOBKOFF: So, after years of tinkering, LeMieuxs company, Tremont Electric, is about to launch its first product that takes a little of your walking energy and sends it to your portable electronics. Its called the Personal Energy Generator, or PEG, and its about the size of a flashlight. LeMieux put it on his belt and took me for a walk to show off an early prototype.

So were sort of ambling here a light, leisurely walk. If I were to do this with one of the new units going to market, would this be enough of a walk to get like wall-outlet-level power?

Mr. LEMIEUX: Yes, it would. And thats exactly what our testing is coming back at now.

BOBKOFF: With each step magnets bounce back and forth off springs inside the PEG, generating electricity. The springs amplify its movement, allowing the PEG to make a lot more power than other past attempts at capturing kinetic energy. Sara Bradford, of Texas-based market research firm Frost & Sullivan, is impressed.

Ms. SARA BRADFORD (Market Research, Frost & Sullivan): As a category, it is a breakthrough that were now starting to see commercial products such as - in power hit the market.

BOBKOFF: This kind of technology isnt expected to go mainstream until its cheaply built into devices we already have. Imagine a cell phone that charges as you walk around all day. And LeMieux has another idea, buoy-sized versions that float in the ocean, getting power from the waves. But for now, hes just trying to get his company off the ground, and the $149 PEG into customers' hands by the holidays. Though he concedes its not for everyone.

What would you say to someone who is a bit sedentary - is this not the product for them?

Mr. LEMIEUX: Quite possibly its not a very good product for them. But then again, you know, if people use a pedometer and are able to log the amount of steps that they take, what people generally find is they do a lot of more walking than they anticipate.

BOBKOFF: And LeMieux says the weight loss is free.

For NPR News, Im Dan Bobkoff in Cleveland.

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