Though we go scrambling for an electrical socket or a new battery when our smartphones or other electronics need a boost, the energy to do the job is all around us. A ship bobbing up and down in the water or a jogger running in the park unleashes enough energy in their movements to potentially provide usable power. If only we could figure out how to harness the energy unlocked by chaotic movement and store it for use when it’s needed.

The machine above is called the WITT (Whatever Input to Torsion Transfer) device. It consists of two pendulums, which pivot around shafts that transfer chaotic movement in any direction to an attached flywheel. The torque from the spinning shafts is funneled into spinning the flywheel in a single direction, which stores energy in its rotation. That stored energy can then be tapped to generate smooth power output. Two patents have been issued for the chaotic motion energy harvester. Learn more below.

WITT Energy, the UK-based company created to bring the device to market, says there are a number of applications for it. A small unit could be used to charge smartphones while they sit in a person’s pocket. A larger device with a heavier pendulum could be fitted at the bottom of a ship to power onboard electronics. The company is also experimenting with an energy-harvesting machine sealed inside a floating sphere, which could be fitted to data buoys to scavenge wave energy and augment solar panels.

Researchers at the University of Southampton in the UK are now investigating the potential of the floating version of the WITT device to generate megawatts of power from wave action. “It not only converts power in surge and pitch modes but also in sway and roll,” writes principal investigator Philip Wilson. “The WITT has been developed by specialists in gear transmission systems and has been shown to have high efficiency in conversion of kinetic to electric power. It is scalable and robust.”

Previous experiments at the university showed a hand-sized version of the device could harvest 10 watts of power from chaotic motion.

The device earned WITT Energy a finalist position in the 2015 Shell Springboard Awards, which provides funding to entrepreneurs in the UK who are making advances in the low-carbon economy.

All gifs created from Youtube videos courtesy of Martin Wickett/WITT Limited.