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Max Donelan's energy harvester

SFU’s Energy Harvester is one of 2008’s top inventions

November 13, 2008

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The Bionic Energy Harvester, a device created by SFU biomedical physiologist Max Donelan and his research team, has made Time magazine’s list of the best 50 inventions of 2008.

The device harvests energy from the motion of walking. An Oct. 27 article in Time’s online edition says it is "perhaps the most promising in a class of products that harvest energy—all the more important at a time when portable tech, from Blackberries to iPods, is becoming ubiquitous."

"We’ve poured our hearts and minds into this project for years," says Donelan, who is developing the device for commercial use as science director of the SFU technology spin-off company Bionic Power Inc. "We’re truly honored to rub shoulders on this list with some of the world’s leading researchers, thinkers and innovators."

The wearable, lightweight device, formerly called a "biomechanical" energy harvester, resembles a slim-profile orthopedic knee brace. Without adding any noticeable effort on the part of the wearer, a pair of the devices working together will passively extract as much as 13 watts of electrical energy. That’s enough energy generated in one minute of walking to power about half an hour of talking on a mobile phone.

Yad Garcha, Bionic Power’s chief executive officer, says the technology is really about freedom. The company "has taken this invention out of the lab," he adds.

"Every day we move closer to the goal of turning this great idea into a product that will improve the lives of soldiers, first responders, users of mobile medical devices, and other people whose lives depend upon portable power."

The energy harvester attracted a huge amount of international media attention last February after it was featured in the academic journal Science.

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