Science

Scientists develop futuristic backpack that feels 20% lighter

Talk about a weight off your shoulders! Scientists develop futuristic backpack that feels 20% lighter and can harvest energy from your movements to power electronics

  • US-based researchers made a smart backpack out of two elastomers  
  • It reduces vertical movement of a load and therefore reduces strain on wearer
  • Analysis of the device reveals it reduces load strain by more than 21 per cent  

Whether it’s on your way to the gym, or on an expedition to the beach, many people use backpacks to carry their personal items. 

While backpacks are very practical, they can cause huge strain on your back and shoulders.

But help could soon be at hand, in the form of a new backpack that reduces the strain on the wearer by 21 per cent. 

The smart piece of equipment is made with two elastic materials which alleviate some of the weight from the rucksack by reducing vertical movement of what is inside.

Also embedded in the new-age backpack is an electric generator which produces power from the movement of the wearer’s body to power and charge devices. 

Its designers believe the backpack could be especially useful for athletes, explorers and disaster rescuers who work in remote areas without electricity.

A prototype backpack has been built which reduces the strain on the wearer by 21 per cent. The smart piece of equipment is made with two elastic materials reduce vertical movement and uses this to create electricity

A prototype backpack has been built which reduces the strain on the wearer by 21 per cent. The smart piece of equipment is made with two elastic materials reduce vertical movement and uses this to create electricity 

HOW TO RELIEVE BACK PAIN 

The following tips may help reduce your back pain and speed up your recovery:

• stay as active as possible and try to continue your daily activities – this is 1 of the most important things you can do, as resting for long periods is likely to make the pain worse

• try exercises and stretches for back pain; other activities such as walking, swimming, yoga and pilates may also be helpful

• take anti-inflammatory painkillers, such as ibuprofen – remember to check the medicine is safe for you to take and ask a pharmacist if you’re not sure

• use hot or cold compression packs for short-term relief – you can buy these from a pharmacy, or a hot water bottle or a bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a cloth or towel will work just as well  

Although it can be difficult, it helps if you stay optimistic and recognise that your pain should get better.

People who manage to stay positive despite their pain tend to recover quicker.

Source: NHS

Energy-harvesting backpacks have been around for some time, but none which actively reduce the total load, the researchers say. 

The latest iteration uses elastic materials to suspend a carrying section within the backpack which smoothes out the up and down bumps by 28.7 per cent. 

As a result, the weight is held steadier for longer and this helps take the load off the neck, shoulders and back of the wearer. 

Conversion of movement from the bag’s frame into electricity was 14 per cent efficient, the researchers say. 

This was enough to power LEDs, an electric watch and fluorescent tubes, the researchers found.

The prototype could be ‘especially useful’ for athletes, explorers and disaster rescuers, who work in remote areas without electricity, the developers say.  

Study author Dr Zhong Lin Wang, of Georgia Institute of Technology in the US, said: ‘Previously, researchers have used triboelectric nanogenerators (TENG) to make energy-harvesting backpacks, but those bags had relatively low power outputs and they didn’t provide added benefits, such as load lightening or shock absorption.

‘We wanted to design a prototype that overcame these limitations.’  

Dr Zhong Lin Wang added: ‘Backpacks are widely used in everyday life for the hands-free carrying of loads.

‘Over time, however, walking or running with a heavy sack can cause back and neck pain.

‘Also, backpackers in wilderness areas or even those in cities who don’t have access to a charger might wish for a bag that could harvest the mechanical energy of walking to power portable electronics or health-monitoring sensors.’

Making the bag more energy efficient so it can charge phones and sensors is the next hurdle, the researchers say.

Dr Wang said: ‘Once some challenges, such as improving the energy conversion efficiency, are overcome, the backpack has promising potential as a power source for small-scale wearable and portable electronics, GPSs and health care sensors.’

Conversion of movement from the bag's frame into electricity was 14 per cent efficient, the researchers say. This was enough to power LEDs, an electric watch and fluorescent tubes, the researchers found. Pictured, a schematic of the smart backpack's various layers

Conversion of movement from the bag’s frame into electricity was 14 per cent efficient, the researchers say. This was enough to power LEDs, an electric watch and fluorescent tubes, the researchers found. Pictured, a schematic of the smart backpack’s various layers 

Other models have used springs to harness energy from the backpacks’ bounce instead of rubber. But this adds weight to the bag.

Being able to reduce the load while producing energy could benefit people who spend long periods of time in remote and hostile environments, like scientists or soldiers.

The findings were published in the journal ACS Nano.

Canadian inventor builds VERY rudimentary propeller ‘backpack’ with weed whacker engine 

You might’ve started baking bread during the pandemic, but one Canadian used the lockdown to invent propeller-powered ice skates. 

With the device strapped to his back, Brydon Gibson can coast across the iced-over Ottawa River at speeds of up to 25 mph.

The gas-powered contraption is powered by a weed whacker engine, but has few safety features and no real brakes.

The only way Gibson can stop himself is with a kill switch he describes as ‘finicky.’

Gibson was puttering around with some weed-trimmer motors last year,  ‘and I figured strapping one on my back and making skating a little bit lazier would [be] a good idea,’ he told the CBC.

Attaching a 15-inch propeller to a crude wooden frame, he used the brake handle and cable from a 10-speed bike to fashion a throttle, then added straps from a dollar store backpack.




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