If soldiers want to know where they're going they may use a GPS. But the lighted screen could give away their position, and they have to look down at the device, taking their eyes off their surroundings. So the US Army are testing haptic belts, that give directions by vibrating. Eight vibrating mini electric motors, called tactors, indicate direction. A GPS, accelerometer and digital compass feed data to the belt. Certain combinations of motors can also buzz to give commands like "move out". It wouldn't pay to be ticklish. Details at




Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology, USA, have developed tiny generators that harvest energy from the environment.

The nanogenerator they've developed produces electricity from vibrations, has a capacitor that stores energy, and includes a sensor and radio transmitter. It was able to transmit wireless signals for more than 10 metres. Sounds like this belongs in the haptic belts.

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Australian researchers believe they've found a key to recharging phones when you type on them. They've found a way to measure the energy created when pressure is applied to piezoelectric thin films. For the first time they can calculate how much pressure is required to generate a certain amount of power. While the power generated is very small at the moment, they hope to be able to amplify it to useful levels. The more you type, the longer the phone battery

lasts. More




You don't usually think of a cooking pot having a USB port. However, cooking pots generally are hotter on the bottom where they touch a fire than inside where the water is. TES NewEnergy have figured out how to use that temperature difference to generate 2 Watts of power. The USB port feeds the energy out, perhaps to charge a phone. That may sound pretty pointless, but a natural disaster may leave you with only an open fire for cooking and no electricity supply. Then you may be glad of any opportunity to recharge a phone.

The Hatsuden-Nabe thermo-electric cookpot may be what you need.

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Lower Saxony in Germany has many old abandoned coal mines. The Government are considering plans for wind turbines that could use the coal mines to store their energy. During the night the turbines could pump water up hills to reservoirs. When power's needed the water is released downhill to drive turbines. The water would be kept in the system in a closed loop so it wouldn't contaminate nearby rivers. They estimate that a pilot plant could power as many as 40,000 households. That's a nice blend of old and new tech.

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- Miraz Jordan