The idea of technology powered by hamsters running on exercise wheels has always been little more than a geeky joke — until now. Georgia University's Nano Research Group, headed by Dr. Zhong Lin Wang, has proven that the concept is sound, by capturing a running hamster's biomechanical energy.
By connecting a nanogenerator built with piezoelectric nanowires to a small jacket, Wang's team was able to strap the device onto an exercising hamster named "Campbell's Dwarf" and produce small amounts of AC power.
As the hamster runs or scratches itself the nanogenerator harnesses the piezoelectric effect, which produces power every time the flexible jacket is bent, stretched or moved.
Although we humans may laugh at power-generating hamsters for now, Wang is already moving on to bigger things — namely, people.
By increasing the size of the nanogenerators and weaving the technology into human-sized jackets and fabric, the clothing we wear combined with any of our movements from jumping to stretching could eventually produce enough electricity to power electronic devices.
Wang estimates it will take five years for the technology to be considered viable for everyday usage.
Fortunately the era of Matrix-style human batteries is still far on the horizon, as one hamster can only generate 70mV (millivolts), or 0.07V.
To put this into perspective, it would take 22 hamsters to match the power output of an AA battery and 172 hamsters to match a 12-volt car battery.