The micro-windmills can be made in an array using batch processes. The fabrication cost of making one device is the same as making hundreds or thousands on a single wafer, which enables for mass production of very inexpensive systems.
"Imagine that they can be cheaply made on the surfaces of portable electronics," Chiao said, "so you can place them on a sleeve for your smart phone. When the phone is out of battery power, all you need to do is to put on the sleeve, wave the phone in the air for a few minutes and you can use the phone again."
Chiao said because of the small sizes, flat panels with thousands 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.
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.