Scientists have made an energy harvester using ordinary, double-sided tape, creating a simple device that can light up a string of LEDs. This suggests a future for a new low-cost, sustainable power alternative.
Versions of triboelectric generators work on the premise that certain materials become electrically charged when rubbed against one another. According to the authors of a new study, designs so far have involved complex arrangements of expensive parts, and have also had a limited power output. Led by mechanical and aerospace engineering professor Gang Wang at the University of Alabama, the scientists have now made inroads on a less complicated version.
Wang and his colleagues came up with a simple design: one side of their TENG is a piece of store-bought double-sided tape with an acrylic glue layer. The other is a plastic film coated on an aluminum layer. Pressing these two materials together and pulling them apart builds up opposite charges on their surfaces, creating a spark of electricity. More pressure produces more power. Wang and colleagues say that the stickiness of the tape enhances the energy that is generated compared to previously reported devices.
A version of the generator featuring two electrodes was used to produce a power density of 169.6 W per square meter (10.7 sq. ft.), which the team says is 47 percent higher than previous designs. In a round of experiments, the team used the generator to light up an array of 400 LEDs by simply pressing on its layers.
With an ability to turn friction into small amounts of electricity, triboelectric generators may one day be used in clothes that turn movement into power, in battery-free brain implants, flooring that harvests energy from foot traffic, hearing aids that power themselves and touchscreens that generate electricity when you use them.
Source: Jang, M-H., et al. (2022) Power Generation by a Double-Sided Tape. ACS Omega. American Chemical Society