A swipe of a finger or application of pressure is enough to generate power from this low-cost, film-like material containing charged ions.
The device is one of many innovative alternative energy solutions that could help us curb our dependence on fossil fuels and their negative environmental impact.
Yes, now you can charge your smartphone with a swipe of your finger, all this possible, thanks to a new low-cost film like device that can generate energy from human motion. This device is known as nanogenerator and scientists successfully operated an LCD touch screen, a bank of 20 LED lights and a flexible keyboard, all with a simple touching or pressing motion and without the aid of a battery.
“We’re on the path towards wearable devices powered by human motion,” said Nelson Sepulveda, associate professor at Michigan State University in the US. Soon we don’t need to worry about the charging of our smartphone for an entire week, for example, because that energy will be produced by our body movements and transferred into our gadgets.
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This innovative process starts with a single silicon wafer, which then fabricated with several layers, or thin sheets and polypropylene ferroelectret. And then ions are added to the each layer in the device contains charged particles. Then finally, electrical energy is created when the device is compressed by human motion or by mechanical energy.
This complete device is called a biocompatible Ferroelectret Nanogenerator, or FENG. The size of this device is as a sheet of paper and can be used in many sizes. The device is used to power the LED lights of palm-sized, for example, while the device used to power the touchscreen was as a small as a finger.
Advantages of this device are many such as it is lightweight, flexible, biocompatible, scalable, low-cost and robust could make FENG “a promising and alternative method in the field of mechanical energy harvesting” for many autonomous electronics such as wireless headsets, cell phones, and other touch-screen devices, according to the study.
And another plus point of this device is it becomes more powerful when folded. Each time you fold it you are increasing exponentially the amount of voltage you are creating. “Sepulveda said. ‘You can start with a large device, but when you fold it once, and again, and again, it’s now much smaller and has more energy,” he said. “Now it may be small enough to put in a specially made heel of your shoe so it creates power each time your heel strikes the ground,” he said. Researchers are developing technology that would transmit the power generated from the heel strike to, say, a wireless headset. The study was published in the journal Nano Energy.
The new technologies are quite ingenious, too. Technology company Pavegen designed floor tiles that generate energy from people’s weight as they walk. A new photocell design efficiently harvests solar power by mimicking how plants’ leaves do it. There’s also the beta.ray by German Architect Andre Broessel and Makani’s Energy Kite.
With FENG now allowing us to generate power with the swipe of a finger, alternative energy has never felt so tangible.