Can a T-shirt turn sound into electricity?

Author's Note

Building a greener cell phone charger is a noble goal; ridding ourselves of the destructive and polluting habit of buying a new phone every six months or so is an even better one. Since that's unlikely to happen, dumping the need for chargers might be the next best thing.

To this end, companies are not only looking at greener charging methods; they are also exploring removing the need for chargers altogether. One promising possibility, which builds upon technology first explored by Nikola Tesla, involves adapting portable electronics to work with inductive chargers -- devices that cause electric current to flow in a conductor without touching it.

Theoretically, any electronic device could be so charged, and we could have inductive chargers everywhere that we currently have their wired cousins -- in cars, on a kitchen counter, in the office, you name it.

If successful, marketing flacks would no doubt rename the devices -- Apple can't put an "i" in front of "inductor," after all -- but that's just window dressing. The real problem lies in convincing cell phone companies to step away from the ever-profitable peripherals trough.

Were companies serious about reducing landfill fodder and making our rare-earth elements last as long as possible, cell phones would be upgradable, not disposable, and we wouldn't have multiple versions of the same phone requiring different cases, protectors and interfaces just because someone moved a port or button a millimeter or two to the left.

As matters currently stand, should we ever manage to get greener chargers to the mass market, they're bound to be compatible with only a single carrier and phone brand, or possibly -- cyber-heaven help us -- one model series: "Oh, you have the iGreen charger? Sorry, that's only compatible with the iPhone 4. The 5 series requires iChartreuse."

It's enough to make you green in the gills.

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