Scientists working at the University of Texas Arlington have managed to develop tiny micro-windmills which measure just 1.8mm in width, meaning you could fit about 10 of them on a single grain of rice. According to researcher J.C. Chiao, if you were to stick a hundred of them to a smartphone case and hold it in the wind, it could charge your smartphone in just a few minutes.
Build using flexible nickel alloy components, the windmills are also surprisingly resistant and can stand up to strong winds without fracturing.
Apparently a Taiwanese fabrication foundry called WinMEMS has already arranged to have the exclusive rights to the commercialisation of the micro-windmills and they have already begun working on potential uses.
"These inventions are essential to build micro-robots that can be used as surgical tools, sensing machines to explore disaster zones or manufacturing tools to assemble micro-machines," UTA says. "Flat panels with thousand of windmills could be made and mounted on the walls of houses or building to harvest energy for lighting, security or environmental sensing and wireless communication."