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Surprising Science

Phones Charged by Sound

A French communication company has developed a thin, wearable film that converts sound waves into electricity. The technology was recently used to power smartphones.

What’s the Latest Development?

The French telecommunications company Orange has developed a thin, wearable film that converts sound into electricity. When the piezoelectric film, which is already found in many speakers, is exposed to sound waves, it generates an electric current. “Orange says it’s 6 watt-hours, which is enough to power a smartphone.” The film was applied to t-shirts and taken on the road to this year’s Glastonbury festival in the U.K., a celebration of contemporary performing arts where there was sure to be plenty of noise. 

What’s the Big Idea?

Environmental and technological concerns are driving increased efforts to find new sources of electricity and now sound waves can be added to the list. The piezoelectric film, which Orange chose to apply to t-shirts because everyone is sure to already own one, is removable and could be attached to any object. “The shirt responds to about 80 decibels, which Orange’s engineers say about what you would get on a busy street.” The Environmental Protection Agency recommends a maximum of 70 decibels to prevent hearing loss. 


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