Power In Your Hand
A centuries-old study has been transformed into providing electricity for the power-hungry devices. But will it prove its mettle in becoming the most anticipated discovery of this year?
One of the most common problems one is afflicted with today is of fast power discharge of smart devices. But what if the solution is hidden in your skin? What if you can charge your devices just by rubbing onto your skin? Well, the good news is, scientists have just made it possible. Scientists at the National University of Singapore (NUS) have developed a small and flexible device that could potentially harness energy from muscle movements, powering wearable sensors through everyday activities using static electricity.
The team was successful into deriving a flexible nanogenerator which resembles as a small stamp-sized patch that attaches to one’s skin. The device uses skin as a source of static electricity and converts it to electrical energy by using friction. The phenomenon behind it is called the triboelectric effect, a type of contact electrification that occurs when two dissimilar substances rub together, creating friction and static when pulled apart or flexed. As the wearer moves, his/her skin rubs against the device, generating triboelectric power. The device, presented at the MEMS 2015 conference, showed that it can generate 90 volts of open-circuit voltage when tapped by a finger and which in result was able to power 12 commerical LEDs.
But how does it work? When certain types of materials come in contact there is an electrical energy created. An electrode is used to harvest the current, so a 50nm-thick gold film is used. The gold film sits below a silicone rubber layer composed of thousands of tiny pillars that help create more surface area for skin contact, which creates more friction. Since the skin is a triboelectric layer it means the device can be small, saving time, money and materials.
This can also help in long term. As with the continuous development of smart devices, this device can pave the way for solving one of the crucial problems—power. Certainly, in future this type of generator could even generate enough energy to power smartphones, which in result can remove the battery entirely, which is one of the biggest constraints to smartphones development and design.
By Rohan Pal