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Start-up makes electric power from motion

Motion-powered battery company M2E Power gets $8 million in funding. Its product lets you charge your iPod or cell phone while you walk.

Clean tech company M2E Power on Friday said it has raised money to commercialize battery technology that converts motion to electrical energy.

The $8 million series A round was led by OVP Venture Partners and included money from @Ventures, Highway 12 Ventures, and existing investors. The investment will be used to expand research and development and build initial products.

The company's mission, in essence, is to apply the long-understood Faraday Principle--that putting a conductor near a magnetic field will produce voltage--to 21st century applications.

Treadmill tests at a biomechanics lab at Boise State University show how motion can produce enough electricity to power a light (on walker's waist). M2E Power

Its initial target is to create a D-size battery for the military and then create batteries for consumer electronics. Later, it plans to make larger batteries for renewable energy sources like wave power and wind turbines.

Soldiers rely increasingly on D and AA-size batteries to power scopes, radios, and other mobile electronics. Batteries alone can be an additional 10- to 30-pound burden, and discarded batteries leave a trace of a mission's movements.

The company intends to test out its batteries as part of a military research effort and, in parallel, design batteries for consumer devices.

Initially, the company expects to make a battery charger for a cell phone or digital music player that would provide a backup charge to an existing device with a cable, said Regan Rowe, director of business development at M2E Power.

Within a few years, it hopes to have mobile electronic appliances with specially designed motion-to-energy batteries, Rowe said. The batteries are larger than today's but the devices will never need to be plugged in.

In tests, M2E Power has found that two hours of motion--what an average person produces--is enough for one half to one hour of talk time on a cell phone.

How it works
Magnet and coil generators are typically too large for use in mobile electronics. The company's technologists have been able to generate enough electricity to power small devices by manipulating the electromagnetic field that is produced when a coil moves near a magnet, explained Rowe. It has patents in magnetics and coil structures.

Protoypes of batteries that convert kinetic energy--motion--to stored electricity. M2E Power

Its initial prototypes include a magnet attached to a spring, wire coils, circuitry, and a traditional battery to store electricity.

Because it is self-charging, it allows designers to make batteries with less traditional storage material, which often contain heavy metals, Rowe said. Also, the charging algorithms will be less taxing on batteries, making them last twice as long, she said.

The technology is scalable enough so that it could be used for wave and tidal power, hybrid batteries for cars, and other larger renewable energy applications.