The mobile industry is always in search of alternative and more environment-friendly sources of power for mobile devices, with solar energy being the most common. But what if you can harness something slightly more ubiquitous like wind? That’s what a pair of researches are trying out with these new “micro-windmill” energy generators.

These very tiny windmills are the brainchild of Smitha Rao and J.C. Chiao from the University of Texas Arlington. But while the university holds the intellectual rights for the design, the actual production and commercialization of the windmills are being handled by WinMEMS Technologies Co., a Taiwanese fabrication foundry that is known in the semiconductor industry.

Rao takes her inspiration from the simplicity of origami and applied the design to semiconductor device layouts, forming metal pieces that pretty much look like windmills. These, however, are no bigger than a grain of rice. In fact, up to 10 of these 1.8 mm wide windmills can fit into one grain. Despite the extremely small size, these micro-windmills can withstand strong artificial winds thanks to a durable nickel alloy material.


Sounds nice on paper, but the potential applications are even more interesting. Hundreds of these micro-windmills can be fitted into, say, a smartphone sleeve. When the device runs low on power, a user can simply slip in the phone into the sleeve and wave it around for a few minutes to charge the smartphone. The windmills can even be mounted on walls of houses and buildings for an additional energy source. At the moment, WinMEMS has been showcasing the work of these UT Arlington researchers in public presentations. It will be interesting to see if any actual product will eventually come out of this collaboration in the near future.

SOURCE: University of Texas Arlington