The time and energy wasted by idle chitchat could soon become a power source for small batteries.

Researchers at the Ecole de technologie superieure (ETS) in Montreal are perfecting an innovative strap-on device that harnesses the energy from a moving jaw.

Jeremie Voix is leading the research into the chinstrap, made from a material that produces an electric charge when stretched. The power produced from someone chewing gum or eating food is enough to recharge a small battery, such as one used in a hearing aid.

"Just from the meals you are taking we can already power a hearing aid device for two hours," said the Associate Professor. "That's already what's there and we didn't account for if you're chewing gum, if you're speaking a lot, with a lot of jaw movements and all the other activities."

Voix's research background is in acoustic engineering and protecting hearing, which led to an interest in hearing aids.

Noting that many people who use hearing aids also struggle to replace the tiny batteries, Voix began working on ways to recharge the batteries instead.

His associate Aidin Delnavaz said the environmental considerations are also important, since re-using batteries uses less resources.

"In this way we can protect the environment against dangerous chemicals that exists in the batteries," said Delnavaz.

Voix said the idea to harvest energy from talking and chewing came as they worked on developing technology for a bionic ear.

The number of people with hearing loss is growing, and hearing aids are expected to become more prevalent.

"We are all aging and with age the ear has more difficulty hearing speech, speech corrupted by noise especially, and unfortunately the younger generation is aging faster than us because they are exposed to more noise," said Voix.

The researchers expect other methods of tapping the unused potential of the human body will become common.

"I think that the people should get used to harvesting energy that they need for portable devices themselves," said Delnavaz.