Could coffee shop chatter charge our phones?

First it was dew, then sweat, now there’s a new potential way to charge our gadgets that thankfully keeps both user and device dry: sound.

A team made up of scientists from Queen Mary University of London and researchers from Nokia has put together a prototype that can charge phones by converting ambient noise into electricity.

Joe Briscoe and Steve Dunn, who led the Queen Mary team, told Mashable that they came up with the idea when they were working with zinc oxide nanorods (I know that’s always when I’m most inspired). When these are put under strain (for example, by bending or squashing them), it results in a voltage.

The scientists built a tiny generator to turn this voltage into smartphone fuel using vibrations. They say that any ambient sound could provide this, from muzak in lifts to those gossiping teenagers behind you in Starbucks.

They admit that it’s unlikely we’ll ever be able to harvest enough sound to power a phone for an entire day, but it could provide an easy and environmentally-friendly way to get a little extra juice. And let’s face it, considering how quickly they power down after a call and a couple of Instagram videos, a lot of devices need all the help they can get.

Image via bunny hero’s Flickr

Diane Shipley