Triboelectric Nanogenerator for Self-Powered Devices & Large-Scale Energy Needs

Georgia Tech professor Zhong Lin Wang is using what's known as the triboelectric effect to create surprising amounts of electric power by rubbing or touching two different materials together. "The fact that an electric charge can be produced through triboelectrification is well known," says Wang. "What we have introduced is a gap separation technique that produces a voltage drop, which leads to a current flow in the external load, allowing the charge to be used. This generator can convert random mechanical energy from our environment into electric energy." Since 2011, Wang and his research team have increased the power output density of their triboelectric generator by a factor of 100,000 – reporting that a square meter of single-layer material can now produce as much as 300 watts. They have found that the volume power density reaches more than 400 kilowatts per cubic meter at an efficiency of over 50 percent. The team has expanded the range of energy-gathering techniques from 'power shirts' containing pockets of the generating material to foot pedals and floats bobbing on ocean waves.