Women Tech Team Invents Soccer Ball That Generates Electricity

julia-silverman-jessica-lin-jessica-matthews.jpgSmall-scale, hand-cranked generators that power lights and radios are practical in places where there’s no electricity.

But they’re not a whole lot of fun. Four undergraduate students at Harvard University decided to harvest the kinetic energy of soccer, the world’s most popular sport, instead.

After just 15 minutes of play, their sOccket ball could provide families in sub-Saharan Africa—where less than 25 percent of the population has access to reliable electricity—with 3 hours of LED light, a clean, efficient alternative to kerosene lamps.
The mechanics are straightforward: When the sOccket rolls, a magnetic slug slides back and forth inside an inductive coil in the ball, generating power that is stored in a capacitor.

Field-tested in South Africa during the World Cup, sOccket 2.0 has an embedded DC jack and weighs only 5 ounces more than a FIFA-regulated ball.

A future version should hold enough juice—3.7 volts at a capacity of 600 milliamps per hour—to charge a basic cellphone. The women partnered with a manufacturer in Cape Town and hope to subsidize developing-world discounts with sales in the U.S.

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By Logan Ward
Popular Mechanics
Photo Credit:
Nick Ruechel