WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
We have an abundance of energy, and now we have the tech to tap into it – no matter where it is.
Imagine a mobile phone charger that doesn’t need a wireless or mains power source, like this one that was created a couple of years ago that’s powered using nothing more than backscatter radiation from the air, or this one that could power itself using nothing more than vibrations from your voice. Or a pacemaker that harvests electricity directly from the human body… and crazily even directly from your bloodstream.
This is the kind of research Australian researchers at Flinders University have been focusing on while picking up the challenge of finding new ways to scavenge the invisible power from the low-frequency vibrations in the surrounding environment – whether that’s from the wind, air, sound waves, radio waves, or even static electricity.
“These so called Triboelectric Nanogenerators (or TENGs) can be made at low cost and in different configurations making them perfect for powering small electronics such as personal electronics, biomechanical devices like pacemakers, sensors, and more,” says Professor Youhong Tang who led the research.
Next the team plan on developing their TENG’s from cheap and sustainable materials that can push them to even higher energy efficiencies.
“They can use non-invasive materials, so could one day be used for implantable and wearable energy harvesting aims,” says Ph.D. candidate Mohammad Khorsand, co-lead author on recent papers in international journal Nano Energy.
The latest paper uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) enhanced mathematical modelling to compare the function of the number of segments, rotational speed and tribo-surface spacing of an advanced TENG prototype to optimize the storage and performance.
The researchers, with colleagues at the University of Technology Sydney and elsewhere, are working to improve power generation of TENGs and store the generated power on supercapacitor or battery.
“We have been able to effectively harvest power from sliding movement and rotary motion which are abundantly available in our living environment,” says Professor Tang.