Tag Archives: technology

New device could charge cell phone by waving it in the air

13 Jan
A micro-windmill is pictured on the face of a penny. Photo courtesy of UT Arlington

A micro-windmill is pictured on the face of a penny. Photo courtesy of UT Arlington

We’ve all been there.

You’re taking one of the most important calls of your life.

You’re lost in the middle of nowhere.

You’re waiting for a text message from that special someone.

And. . .  your phone dies.

The sound it makes before it powers down resembles the feeling of your stomach sinking. You didn’t want to spend the $30 on a car charger and pay phones are  more commonly seen at antique malls than in public areas. Even if there is a payphone nearby, you probably never memorize numbers anymore.

A team of researchers at the University of Texas Arlington have created a device that would make charging a cell phone as easy as waving it in the air.

The tiny micro-windmill, about the tenth of the size of a grain of rice, generates wind energy and the researchers say they are optimistic that it would be a perfect device power cell phone batteries. For it to work, hundreds of the devices could be placed on the cell phone sleeve.

Smitha Rao and J.-C. Chiao originally designed the tiny windmill for a Taiwanese company called WinMEMS that specializes in fabrication techniques for the semiconductor industry.

“The company was quite surprised with the micro-windmill idea when we showed the demo video of working devices,” Rao said. “It was something completely out of the blue for them and their investors.”

The researchers said they were inspired by basic origami concepts and used nickel alloy to ensure the product was strong and flexible.

“The problem most MEMS designers have is that materials are too brittle,” Rao said. “With the nickel alloy, we don’t have that same issue. They’re very, very durable.”

Chiao added that, not only are the devices durable, they can also be mass-produced at a low cost.

“Imagine that they can be cheaply made on the surfaces of portable electronics,” Chiao said, “so you can place them on a sleeve for your smart phone. When the phone is out of battery power, all you need to do is to put on the sleeve, wave the phone in the air for a few minutes and you can use the phone again.”

But, the researchers have bigger plans for the tiny windmills than simply charging cell phones. Chiao said that because of the discreet size of the tiny fans, thousands could easily be placed on flat panels and placed on the walls of houses to generate electricity.

The windmills went through a trial run in September of last year and were successful. WinMEMS and the university are currently discussing collaboration, and only time will tell when a simple wave of a hand will charge our cell phones.

With how much we depend on our phones, I suspect this product could fly off the shelves easily.

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UF Robotics team looking to launch robot into space

12 Dec
My name is Lawrence Chan I'm a journalism junior at the University of Florida. I enjoy writing writing about advances in technology and computers. I also cover student organizations on campus who focus on technological developments.  I like to write about how new technology is being implemented into society and how consumers should react to recent developments in computers or gaming. My eventual goal is to become a writer for a technology publication such as CNET news, GameInformer magazine or Wired. I profess that much of my interest in technology stems from the everyday use of technology for entertainment through video games and heavy use of my own 10 lb. computer. Currently, I am attempting to better establish myself as a writer and gain a better insight into the industry I love.

My name is Lawrence Chan and I’m a journalism junior at the University of Florida. I enjoy writing about advances in technology and computers. I also cover student organizations on campus who focus on technological developments.
I like to write about how new technology is being implemented into society and how consumers should react to recent developments in computers or gaming.
My eventual goal is to become a writer for a technology publication such as CNET news, GameInformer magazine or Wired. I profess that much of my interest in technology stems from the everyday use of technology for entertainment through video games and heavy use of my own 10 lb. computer.
Currently, I am attempting to better establish myself as a writer and gain a better insight into the industry I love.

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of contributing bloggers beginning their careers as journalists/public relations professionals at the University of Florida. Please see my earlier post about getting journalists excited about science writing early on.

By Lawrence Chan

GAINESVILLE—The University of Florida’s Gator Robotics team is aiming high and working to launch their new robot into space.

After an ill-timed mechanical failure at last year’s NASA Robotic Mining Competition, UF’s team, NASAbotics, is once again preparing for an interplanetary mission.

During last year’s competition the team’s robot failed to function entirely due to a problem with the communication array failing to register the signals from the command team. As a result, the robot failed to function during judgment.

Evan Brady, a 20-year-old mechanical engineering junior and mechanical project head for NASAbotics, said he isn’t letting last year’s mishaps get him down. His team is starting from scratch to produce a new-and-improved robot.

“Plainly, our robot worked last year but did absolutely nothing,” Brady said.

“Our goal this year is to fix him up and upgrade him better than before.”

Next year’s competition runs from May 19 to  May 23 and will invite university teams across the nation to build and design mining robots for possible application into a NASA lunar walker.

The goal is for teams create a robot that can collect at least 10 kilograms of very fine, potentially hazardous sand that simulates what would be found on another planet in 10 minutes, said Brady who has been UF’s team leader for two years.

The winning team receives the Joe Kosmo Award for Excellence and a $5,000 team scholarship. Startup funding granted by institutions like the NASA Florida Space Grant Consortium and student governments has amounted to about $7,000 so far.

“We’re already finished designing the new robot,” said Kevin French, electrical head of the NASAbotics team

French said all that is left is to order the parts and test their stability before they can start manufacturing the new robot.

“Our goal this year is to have him operational by the end of the fall semester,” French said. “At the moment we’re still waiting on some of the parts we ordered to arrive, but once they’re here we can start putting it together and be ready by the competition.”

Video by: Lawrence Chan