Orange Develops T-Shirts That Use Sound to Juice Your Mobile Phone

July 23, 2011

1:05 pm

Yes, you read that headline correctly. UK-based Orange has created technology that enables your phone to be charged by sound– all within the practical, tidy package of a t-shirt.

This 2011 prototype follows Orange’s successful heritage in producing eco charging devices such as last year’s Power Wellies, which powered users’ phones as they walked around. Orange excels at exploring the types of technology that could be used in the future to potentially power phones in an eco-friendly way. While the Power Wellies harnessed user-generated heat to charge devices, the Sound Charge t-shirt captures nearby sound to power up your phone.

Produced in conjunction with renewable energy experts at GotWind, Sound Charge uses an existing technology in a revolutionary way. The device reverses the use of a product called Piezoelectric film. Usually found in modern hi-fi speakers, an A4 panel of the modified film is housed inside a t-shirt, which then acts much like an oversized microphone by absorbing invisible sound pressure waves. These waves are converted by the compression of interlaced quartz crystals into an electrical charge, which is fed into an integral reservoir battery. The system charges most makes and models of mobile phones.

The team chose a t-shirt to house their technology because it’s an everyday item many people already use. As the t-shirt is worn, a steady charge is dispensed into the phone through a simple, interchangeable lead, which fits most handsets. The Piezoelectric film panel and electronics are fully removable so you can give your Orange Sound Charge t-shirt a good scrub when you need to.

The development team behind the Sound Charge conducted live testing on-site at the Glastonbury Festival in June, where sound levels of around 80dB (roughly the same as a busy street) generated up to six watt hours of power over the course of the weekend–enough to charge two standard mobile phones or one Smartphone. The Sound Charge is still in developmental stages, but look forward to seeing this and other eco-friendly technologies from the Orange and GotWind team in the future.

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Meg Rayford is a communications consultant based in Northern Virginia. She previously spent two years as the Director of Public Relations for a nonprofit startup, where she learned a lot about providing clean water for impoverished countries, even within the confines of a bootstrapped startup. She is the editor of Tech Cocktail, and she develops media strategies for companies in Washington, DC and Virginia. You can read her most recent work in the marketing chapter of the upcoming book, "Social Innovation and Impact in Nonprofit Leadership," which will be published in Spring 2014 by Springer Publishing. Follow her @megkrayford.

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