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Your cell phone may soon be able to charge itself, thanks to the recent invention of micro-windmills at the Univers...
Your cell phone may soon be able to charge itself, thanks to the recent invention of micro-windmills at the University of Texas Arlington. Apparently fed up listening to people proclaim that everything’s big in Texas, the micro-engineering at UTA designed these tiny little generators to be smaller than a grain of rice.
The impact of this technology is going to be huge, and yes, I am aware of the implied oxymoron of that statement. But consider the facts: a recent study conducted by the International Telecommunications Union concluded that at some point this year—2014—the number of active cell phones in the world will exceed the number of people.
If you haven’t heard of the ITU, you should just trust me that they know what they’re talking about when they say by year’s end the total number will be around 7.3 billion phones in use.
Let’s think for a moment about what all these cell phones leave behind. Think about those minor little fees that are added to your phone bill, a dollar here and a dollar there, then multiply. Consider for a moment the virtual mountains of selfies that must exist in memory or storage across the globe.
And now think about all the electricity required to support the selfie infrastructure. For each of us, as individual users, the impact—relative to our overall use of electricity—is pretty tiny.
Charging your cell phone uses roughly one kilowatt hour per year; your refrigerator, by comparison, uses three and half times that amount every day. But again, let’s multiply: for all of us combined, that’s 7.3 billion kilowatt hours per year, enough to run your energy-hogging refrigerator for 5.88 million years.
Before you get too excited, though, understand that this is a tiny percentage of the world’s usage. Globally, nearly 20 billion megawatt hours are used every year, about 2,500 times the savings we’re talking about. So, it’s not the solution, but a step towards it. The steps towards cleaner technology will be small, literally and figuratively.