Canadian engineers have found a new way to generate electricity, and it includes a chin strap that can be worn while chewing.
The research team from the Ecole de Technologie Superieure in Montreal believes that the chin strap could replace batteries in hearing aids, earpieces and other devices used to produce electricity, according to BBC News.
A "smart" material was developed for the device by mechanical engineers Dr. Aiden Delnavaz and Dr. Jeremie Voix to become electrically charged when stretched. The prototype requires 20 times the efficiency it has to generate useful amounts of power, which Delnavaz and Voix say they can accomplish by adding layers of the material.
After looking at different ways to draw electricity from the head, the researchers found that the jaw was the best option, ItProPortal reported. Other methods they found focused on using heat from inside the ear canal and head movements.
"We went through all the available power sources that are there," Voix said. "But on the way, we realized that when you're moving your jaw, the chin is really moving the furthest. And if you happen to be wearing some safety gear ... then obviously the chin strap could be actually harvesting a lot of energy."
Voix and Delnavaz decided to test the head strap with the "piezoelectric effect," which takes place when certain materials produce electricity from being stretched or pressed, BBC News reported. While Delnavaz wore the prototype and chewed gum for 60 seconds, he was able to generate 18 microwatts of power.
"We could multiply the power output by adding more PFC [piezoelectric fibre composite] layers to the chin strap," Delnavaz said. "For example, 20 PFC layers, with a total thickness of 6mm, would be able to power a 200 microwatt intelligent hearing protector."
Voix believes the strap has a variety of potential users, such as people who work with heavy machinery and members of the military. Companies have already approached the research team about using the device as a new tool for charging Bluetooth headsets.
"This is just a proof of concept," Voix said. "The power is very limited at the moment."
The research was published in the Institute of Physics journal Smart Materials and Structures.