Harvesting Electricity from Normal Movement

The simplest example of the “triboelectric effect” is rubbing a balloon against hair or scuffing shoes across a carpet to produce static electricity. When this is combined with induction, it becomes possible to harvest electric power using charge transfer between two thin films that have different tribo-electric polarities.

As we learn to integrate this process into our clothing and other everyday items, it will become possible to power wearable electronic devices from movements. The article below describes the latest development in a triboelectric nanogenerator that has properties similar to skin.

Chinese team develops skin-like triboelectric nanogenerator

A team of researchers with the National Center for Nanoscience and Technology in China has developed what it is calling a skin-like triboelectric nanogenerator (STENG). In their paper published in the journal Science Advances, the group describes the nanogenerator they built and offer suggestions for its use.

Prior research led to the construction of TENG devices that generate electricity by pressing materials together and taking them apart, creating an electrostatic charge. In this new effort, the researchers put an S in front of the name of their TENG device to highlight its similarity to human skin.
To make the new device, the group mixed an elastomer with an ionic hydrogel to create a material that is both flexible and nearly transparent. Unlike other TENG devices, the elastomer can be used as the layer that is electrified while the hydrogel can work as the electrode. This allowed for much better stretching abilities—the team reports a 1000 percent improvement over other TENGs.

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