Although built-in lithium-ion rechargeable batteries have emerged in more and more handheld devices, the traditional alkaline zinc-manganese dry batteries still have their applications. We can often see these batteries on small devices such as alarm clocks and remote controllers, and garbage cans are usually equipped with small bins dedicated to recycling waste batteries to avoid pollution caused by casual abandonment.
A recent technological improvement may make these batteries less polluting: Brother Industries Ltd. has recently developed a miniature generator shaped like a dry battery that generates tens to hundreds of milliwatts of electricity, enough to meet the needs of low-power devices such as remote controllers. A few seconds is enough to change the channel of the TV.
This technology, called VpGB, is short for Vibration-power Generating Battery. It consists of a miniature vibration generator and a capacitor, which is very suitable for household equipment. It seems that this product will appear in our life soon. It does not need to change the design of other existing electricity products. It may be one of its greatest advantages.
Vibration power generation technology has some history, and people are still developing more such tools that can convert mechanical energy into electrical energy. A Dutch nightclub has become a classic example of the new energy industry by using spring floors to collect energy from people dancing and convert it into electricity for lighting, but this is clearly not suitable for household use. In the field of miniaturized vibration power generation, products similar to this battery were introduced several years ago.
The most traditional method is to use a suspended magnet, the generator is through electromagnetic induction to complete the energy conversion. Electromagnetic induction is generated by placing coils in a variable magnetic field, a process similar to that of large generators in large power plants. Most micro generators are only one cubic centimeter in size. In 2007, a team of researchers at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom developed a cubic sugar-sized vibration generator and tried to apply it to sensors in industrial fields, such as coal mines, oil fields, chemical plants or other monitoring equipment in similar harsh environments. They even plan to microminiaturize the generators and implant them into the human body to power medical devices that require long-term power supply, but these have not yet been commercialized.
However, if such a product is needed, a large number of equipment currently in use need to be redesigned to make it more compatible with the generator.
This is clearly a costly act - for the business world, technological advancement is often not the only criterion chosen. Brothers Industries, on the other hand, skillfully avoided the problem: its technical principles were very similar to those of generators at Southampton University, but its shape was more reasonable. Now Brothers Industries has designed two types of products, three sizes and three sizes, which are in line with the volume standards of traditional batteries No. 5 and No. 7 respectively. The former is to integrate generators and capacitors into a battery-size housing, while the latter is limited in volume, which is to place generators and capacitors into two batteries separately and connect them through wires. These generators can be plugged into standard battery compartments, providing a voltage of 3.2 volts and 2.7 volts, respectively.
From this design feature, we can see that Brothers Industries'products are mainly aimed at the home market rather than the industrial market, and will not compete positively with Southampton University's products. The latter tries to develop different products according to different vibration frequencies, such as those for the medical market, products that can obtain maximum power below 2 Hz, and generators for the Internet of Things that can work under 20 to 30 Hz for road and bridge condition detection sensors, etc.
Brothers Industries participated in the Techon-Frontier 2010 exhibition in Tokyo from July 21 to 23, and has begun to work with some TV manufacturers to achieve the goal of keeping remote controllers battery-free for life. In addition, they are also in talks with power remote control switch companies and LED lighting companies, in order to enable such batteries to be used more in products that occasionally use and consume less electricity.
Now, the battery works best when it vibrates at 4 to 8 Hz per second, shaking for three seconds to reach 40 to 180 mW, enough for the chips and infrared transmitters in the remote control to work. People walk about 2 to 3 Hertz on a daily basis, so for the time being, they can't expect it to power portable music players unless they've been planning to run.
It looks like a good product, but using magnets and coils is not the only way to make vibrating generators. There are also some vibration power generation devices using other principles, such as the micro-vibration power generation products recently developed by Omron. This product adopts the method of changing the opposite area of capacitor motor. When the relative area of two electrodes changes, the electrostatic capacitance will change accordingly, thus generating current. Now Omron has etched the positive and negative electrodes onto two relatively thin plates, each of which has an area of only microns. When two conical springs are used to transmit the vibration, the corresponding area between the electrodes will change accordingly.