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Three alternative ways to charge your iPod

Whether you're heading on a camping expedition or simply fancy boosting your eco credentials, you’ll be pleased to know that charging iPods, phones and other portable gadgets  no longer requires a power socket. Here are our top three alternatives.

3. Put a spring in your step

Several different companies have designed devices to capture the energy created as you move around – known as kinetic energy.

These gadgets use induction, also called the Faraday effect, according to which moving a conductor inside magnetic field generates a current. As you walk, jog or even dance around, a metal component and a magnet are shaken about and their movement relative to each other creates an electrical current.

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2. Solar powered swimwear

If you fancy a more laid back way of generating electricity, the solar powered bikini may fit the bill. Perhaps the ultimate in geek chic, this invention allows you to power up your electronics whilst basking in the sun. On the downside, the solar cells won’t withstand a dip in the pool, so you might be better off sticking to traditional solar panels. Portable solar energy chargers are now widely available and are proving just as useful for powering telecommunications appliances in remote areas of the world as for topping up your iPod battery on the beach.

If sunny spells are few and far between, how about wind power? If you have a bike, you can even produce a breeze of your own by fixing a turbine on the handlebars. Like the kinetic energy harvesters, wind turbines rely on induction to turn mechanical energy into electricity.

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1. Hamster power

Is your hamster keeping you awake at night? There’s not much we can do about that, but new technology can convert your rodent’s wriggles into electricity.

To this end, researchers from Georgia Tech Univeristy kitted a few helpful hamsters out in miniature waistcoats containing tiny wires. These produce power in the form of piezoelectricity, created when certain materials are bent and then relaxed.

Armies of hamsters are unlikely to provide tomorrow’s energy, but make good test subjects for studying power generation from what is known as biomechanical energy. In the long run, the movement of your fingers on the keypad or the vibrations created by your voice could power your phone.

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And one that won’t work…

A widespread hoax online claims to show how you can charge your iPod with an onion, a few wires and a bottle of energy drink. Whilst this video is fake, it is possible to generate an electric current using fruit and veg, with citrus fruits giving the best results. The trouble is, the electrical current produced is however unlikely to be enough to charge your iPod. With one lemon, the best you’ll be able to do is light up an LED.

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                                                                                                                                                 09 April 2009

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