A Dutch architect has developed a simple device generating electrical energy with the help of gravity, hoping the invention could lead to new renewable phone chargers or even power household appliances.
The system works by perpetually unbalancing a weight at the top of the system to generate energy at the bottom.
"Intuitively, I thought that gravity must have something to offer, given that everything is drawn to earth,” said architect Janjaap Ruijssenaars, who is currently trying to patent the invention. “By unbalancing a weight at the top that is only just stable, using little force, a large force is created at the bottom at a single point. The idea was that this should yield something."
Ruijssenaars has worked with scientists from the University of Twente to assess the potential of the method, which relies on principles of piezoelectricity to turn kinetic energy into electrical.
“Thanks to clever use of gravity, the energy yield from the so-called Piezo method, which converts mechanical pressure into electrical energy, is increased from 20 to 80 per cent," said Theo de Vries, system architect from the University of Twente’s Robotics And Mechatronics group.
"Ruijssenaars literally turned the method on its head, as a result of which we, as scientists, have started to look at this method in a new light. Everything that is currently offered as mechanical energy will actually be useful, thanks to the invention."
The technology could provide an alternative to solar or wind energy in situations where such installations are not convenient. The researchers are now working with the architect to develop practical applications.
Last year, a company developing a gravity-powered lamp for developing countries has been awarded £150,000 to bring its technology into the market as part of the Shell Springboard programme.