With ever-increasing energy consumption, new possible ways of generating energy is on the rise as well. Last time, I wrote about the element, Thorium (Th) which has the potential to power the entire planet, and also about utilizing piezoelectric effect to harvest energy from the noises produced by factory machines, big vehicles, heavy construction equipment and jet engines. These
sound promising, but regardless of their feasibleness, they are not going to be put for commercial purposes anytime soon.

On top of that, here comes another groundbreaking research where you become the energy source for your electronic devices. The research establishes the possibility of powering your cell phone by simply walking or rubbing it with the palm of your hand. The research is the brainchild of Zhong Lin Wang, Ph.D, and his team; it was shown at the 247th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society(ACS) which is being held at Dallas Convention Center.

It’s quite surprising what piezoelectricity is capable of, but what would be more astounding is when you realize the idea of generating endless energy from the body is the result of a much underrated  type of electricity known the static electricity. Couple of years ago at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Wang and his team were working on a miniature generator based on an energy phenomenon of piezoelectricity. They were surprised by the power spike during their experiment. Later on, they discovered that the spike was due to friction between two polymer surfaces in the device, producing a triboelectric effect – what is generally known as the static electricity. This discovery led him to develop the first triboelectric nanogenerator (TENG).

In the device, TENG, he paired two sheets of different material together, one which donates electrons and the other which accepts electron, so that when the sheets touch, electrons flow from one to the other. When the sheets are split up, a voltage develops between them.

Since the introduction of TENG in 2012, the power output density has been increased by the factor of 100,000 and the output power density reaching 300 Watts per square meter.  TENG has been incorporated into shoes, backpacks, floor mats, foot pedals and ocean buoys to harness the power of everyday motion.

“The amount of charge transferred depends on surface properties,” Wang explained. “Making patterns of nanomaterials on the polymer films’ surfaces increases the contact area between the sheets and can make a 1,000-fold difference in the power generated.”

Wang also envisions generating endless energy from ocean waves, rain drops and the wind all around us in the near future. See the video below.

[Source: American Chemical Society]

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