Dutch designer Tjeerd Veenhoven has crafted the iFan, a charger that uses wind energy to charge up iPods and iPhones.
The Netherlands is known as a land of windmills, so it makes sense this land would also inspire an inventor to create a wind-powered iPhone charger.
Dutch designer Tjeerd Veenhoven has crafted the iFan, a charger that holds various Apple devices, like the iPod and iPhone, inside a soft rubber outer skin and uses fan blades to capture energy from the wind, which tops up the battery.
Veenhoven has been working on wind-related products for a while but only recently decided to scale down his creations.
“The thing with wind is that it is often only profitable when you scale it up to large windmills,” he told AOL News. “Therefore, wind energy is a concept that is far away from us. One of the nice things about the iFan is that it communicates the quality of wind in a very direct and personal way.”
Veenhoven’s prototype uses a computer fan and a mold he made himself. He says once he had the inspiration, creating the device didn’t take long.
“I didn’t use anything high tech,” he said. “I first made a wooden one, and made a mold from that, filled it with rubber and presto! It took me a day.”
In fact, it takes the iFan longer to charge than it did for it to be invented.
“It takes ages [to charge]!!” he said. “Remember, this is a concept model. Nevertheless, it charges the phone in roughly six hours with a strong wind. So, it’s not very efficient — yet.”
Veenhoven believes the fan blades can be further optimized and improvements can be made to the electronic portion.
For instance, he is working on a version that mounts on a bike, thus ensuring a steady breeze as long as the person is pedaling.
“We are doing tests to see how well it charges, or how much it prolongs the battery life with the use of continuous navigation,” he said.
But while Veenhoven is breaking new ground with wind, he faces some challenges.
“Wind is different in small fans than in big fans,” he said. “Aerodynamics is such a complex matter. The thickness of air is becoming an issue when you work with small fans — it behaves ‘strange’ when it moves through small openings and around objects.
“It’s very interesting! The big windmills have no issues there.”
But that challenge isn’t as big as the one he faces in convincing the public that the answer to charging smart phones and mp3 players is, in the words of Bob Dylan, blowing in the wind.
“The biggest challenge is simply to make people understand that a good concept is also an important part of design,” he said. “People often don’t really get the way products and technology evolves. It goes in steps. A good design is never optimized in the first try, especially when it is innovative.”
Veenhoven is convinced his iFan is a good alternative to charging energy-hungry phones and says he has several partners ready to work on optimizing it for maximum power and efficiency.