Charge Your Mobile While You Walk

Plugging your mobile phone into a wall socket to charge it may eventually become a thing of the past thanks to ground breaking new research currently being carried out on triboelectric nanomaterial.

Piezoelectric materials, which generate an electrical charge under mechanical stress, have been considered for this purpose but, as yet, the results are far from impressive so researchers have turned their attention to triboelectric nanomaterials instead.

In a nutshell the triboelectric effect is the generation of static electricity from friction. If you have ever received a small electric shock from touching metal after dragging your shoes across a carpet or your hair stands on end when running a plastic comb through it then you have experienced the triboelectric effect.

The triboelectric nanomaterial is constructed from a type of plastic, polyethylene terephthalate, and a metal. When very thin films of these materials come into contact with one another they become electrically charged and when flexed the current actually flows between them allowing the process to be used to drip charge a battery. The power output of the device known as the Georgia Tech nanogenerator is greatly improved when the two surfaces of the materials that go into its construction are patterned with nanoscale structures converting between 10 – 15% of the energy in mechanical motions into electricity, it has been suggested that even thinner materials could potentially convert up to 40% of this movement into an electrical current.

Georgia Tech researcher Zhong Lin Wang, who has been working on this project for several years, says that a fingernail sized piece of the material can generate eight milliwatts, it does not sound like much but that is enough to run a pacemaker. More impressively, a piece roughly the size of a matchbox can generate enough power to light over 600 LED lights at once, this amount of power is sufficient to actually charge a lithium-ion battery that can then go on to power a mobile phone.

The researchers say that over 50 common plastics, metals and other materials can be utilized to make this device so production would be easy but this will not happen until it can prove its potential out side of the laboratory conditions.

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