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This breakthrough means we’re one step closer to phones that charge as you walk

New research suggests we may soon have phones that we won’t ever need to plug into a charger, as movement will generate the energy to keep them powered up.

Researchers at Michigan State University have created a film-like device called a nanogenerator, and managed to power up both an LCD touchscreen and a flexible keyboard.

The tech also powered a bank of 20 LED lights – it was all done by pushing down on the nanogenerator to create the energy. There wasn't even a battery connected.

This test means we’re one step closer to having devices that are purely powered by movement.

Steps means energy

The highlight of the new tech is that the film-like device can be folded over to create higher levels of power. 

The full name of the tech is a biocompatible ferroelectret nanogenerator, and it's so thin that it can be folded and still fit inside many different objects.

For example, during the LED lights test the surface of the film was palm sized, but the touchscreen was powered by a film no bigger than a finger.

Lead investigator of the project, Nelson Sepulveda, said: “Each time you fold it you are increasing exponentially the amount of voltage you are creating. 

“You can start with a large device, but when you fold it once, and again, and again, it’s now much smaller and has more energy. Now it may be small enough to put in a specially made heel of your shoe so it creates power each time your heel strikes the ground.”

The tech won't be compatible with the iPhone 8, but one day we may be able to power our phones just by taking steps and not have to worry about charging them overnight.

James Peckham

James is Phones Editor for TechRadar, and he has covered smartphones for the best part of a decade bringing you news on all the big announcements from top manufacturers making mobile phones. James is often testing out and reviewing the latest and greatest mobile phones, smartwatches, tablets, virtual reality headsets, fitness trackers and more. He has also worked on other leading tech brands, such as T3 and Gizmodo UK, as well as appearing as an expert on TV and radio for the BBC and other publications. Be sure to follow him on Twitter for all the latest smartphone news.