Researchers in the Taiwan and the US have come out with the maiden tribioelectric fabric that is both waterproof and has the ability to convert energy from multiple sources, namely wind, rain and human movement. It’s a path-breaking feat that could result in a slew of applications in wearable technology besides self-powered sensors and ambient energy harvesting.
This kind of energy gets generated when certain materials are rubbed together. For those who are familiar with high school physics it’s about mobilizing static electricity. Electrons get transferred from one material to another because of friction. This creates an electric potential when the surfaces are separated.
This works on the principle of converting kinetic energy into electrical energy. This has engendered keen interest in using this principle of static energy to harvest energy from human movement as well as ambient motion such as wind and rainfall. Right now a huge number of nanogenerators that belong to the small-scale tribioelectric category have already been developed. These nanogenerators are aptly suited for harvesting energy from irregular low-frequency motion.
At present, these devices despite being low cost and reliable are in a stage where they have to break the barriers created by the limitations they face. Meaning, if the conditions are wet and excessively humid as the presence of water prevents tribioelectric effect from taking place. Waterproofing is possible. However, it is difficult to implement as it does not last long.
A new nanogenerator has been created by Ying-Chih Lai and his colleagues at National Chung Hsing University and Georgia Institute of Technology. This technology is made out of layers of waterproof, and tribioelectric effect fabric. The material is flexible and has the ability to collect energy from multiple sources. For example, tiny impacts such as gusts of wind, individual rain drops and a person wearing the garment moving on can contribute to the energy conversion.