Triboelectric Nanogenerator: This Futuristic Technology Will Help You To Supply Power To Your Gadgets From Your Body

The scientists of the University at Buffalo in the US and the Institute of Semiconductors (IoP) at the Chinese Academy of Science (CAS) have collaboratively researched and developed a “Triboelectric Nanogenerator” which is capable to produce the triboelectric effect with the help of which our bodies could use to generate power for gadgets in the future. In this post, we are having a look at this topic in details!

gadgets could be powered by our own bodies
The wearables of the future could be powered by the body (Credits: Sky News)

What is Triboelectric Effect or Charging?

The triboelectric effect (also known as triboelectric charging) is a type of contact electrification in which certain materials become electrically charged after they come into frictional contact with a different material.Most everyday static electricity is triboelectric. Rubbing glass with fur, or a plastic comb through the hair can build up triboelectricity.

Invention or development of Triboelectric Nanogenerator

The collaborative research project was led by teams at the University at Buffalo in the US and the Institute of Semiconductors (IoP) at the Chinese Academy of Science (CAS) who developed a small metallic tab, called a Triboelectric Nanogenerator which, when attached to the body, can generate electricity from simple movements – including bending a finger.

The teams believe they have done just that using triboelectric charging, which occurs when certain materials become electrically charged after coming into contact with a different material: the same way most static electricity is created.

A Triboelectric Nanogenerator is an energy harvesting device that converts the external mechanical energy into electricity by a conjunction of triboelectric effect and electrostatic induction.

This is a prototype of the Triboelectric Nanogenerator (Credits: Sky News)

Dr. Qiaoqiang Gan, from the University of Buffalo’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, said that:

No one likes being tethered to a power outlet or lugging around a portable charger. The human body is an abundant source of energy. We thought: ‘Why not harness it to produce our own power?

Researchers have proposed numerous nanogenerators that utilize the triboelectric effect; however, most are difficult to manufacture (requiring complex lithography) or are not cost effective. The tab that the UB and CAS team are developing addresses both of those concerns.

Now, they have made a breakthrough using two thin layers of gold, with polydimethylsiloxane (also called PDMS, a silicon-based polymer used in contact lenses, Silly Putty, and other products) sandwiched in between.Because one of the layers of gold is stretched, it crumbles when released, causing friction between the gold layers and the PDMS.

Yun Xu, Ph.D., professor of IoP at CAS said that:

This causes electrons to flow back and forth between the gold layers. The more friction, the greater the amount of power is produced.

Co-authors of the study include Huamin Chen at IoP and CAS; and Nan Zhang, a Ph.D. student at UB.

Because the tab is easily fabricated, Zhang is leading a team of UB undergraduates which is tasked with improving the tab’s performance. The team plans to use larger pieces of gold, which when stretched and folded together are expected to deliver even more electricity.

Physical Overview 

zhong lin wang triboelectric nanogenerator
Image Source

The tab is only 1.5 cm long and 1 cm wide and can deliver a maximum voltage of 124 volts, a current of 10 microamps and a power density of 0.22 milliwatts per square centimeter.

This is certainly not enough to rapidly charge a smartphone, but these are the early days of the invention’s development, and it was able to power 48 LED lights simultaneously.

Futuristic Scope

Searching for a power outlet may soon become a thing of the past. Devices will instead receive electricity from this metallic tab like technologies when attached to the bodies, which will be capable of generating electricity from bending a finger and other simple movements.

Researchers are also working on developing a portable battery to store energy produced by the tab. They envision the system serving as a power source for various wearable and self-powered electronic devices.

So this futuristic technology will surely help us to supply power to our gadgets from our body in the near future.


Source: Sky News

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Debobrata Deb

Written by Debobrata Deb

He has always been interested in technology, especially knowing deeply about computers or gadgets since childhood. Gathering and sharing more and more knowledge relating to awesomeness is what he always like to do.