Harvest big energy from small movement

Harvest big energy from small movement

Scanning electron microscope image of polylactic acid (top) and ethylene-vinal acetate (bottom) fiber layers. Friction between layers generates electricity. Credit: University of Melbourne

Since ancient Greece, mankind has known that if you bring two objects into contact, a small amount of electricity will be generated. An example is that we can rub a balloon with our hair and generate enough electricity to stick it to the ceiling.

The same principle was applied to our new study published in the journal Littlediscovered the optimal way of production energy formed between layers of very small fibers in the material.

Each of these filaments is about 100 times thinner than a human hair. They consist of polymers that are repeating sequences of the same unit. In this case, we used the polymer ethylene-vinyl acetate—one of the other uses that gives the running shoe “elasticity”—and polylactic acid—accidentally comes from the same acid that causes muscle cramps after exercise.

We have interlaced two different fibers into layers in a very specific way to create “thin layers”. These thin sheets are made up of many microscopic layers stacked on top of each other, and each thin patch is made up of tens of thousands of fibers.

Wherever there is any movement around the layers of fibers, electricity is generated from the friction between each layer.

We changed the size and texture of these layers of fibers, and arranged them in very specific ways to optimize friction and electrify the contact, and ultimately generate maximum charge. .

Our research has demonstrated that using this order we can generate about 400 times more moving electromagnetics than was previously possible. was possible before from these materials. Since we can always introduce more interfaces using thinner fibers, this type of power generation is very scalable.

This has exciting potential applications where there’s a lot of movement, but for now it’s on a very small scale—for example, using human movement to power a smartwatch or recharge a device. implants such as pacemakers.

In the biomedical field, for example, there is the potential to capture energy from blood flowing through an artery or vein to keep the insulin pump running for longer.

This capability is also very strong in the field of sensing, especially if it is necessary to measure very small vibrations from the environment, such as monitoring small seismic activity or changes in weather. water lineor to power sensors in remote locations where you don’t get a lot of sun.

In these situations, you cannot use solar battery or easily replace the battery. Can harvest energy only from vibrations in the ground to maintain internet and other activities critical infrastructure work has considerable potential.

Harvest big energy from small movement

This power generation laminate can generate 400 times more electricity than other materials. Credit: University of Melbourne


The research was carried out in collaboration with Professor Andris Sutka at the Technical University of Riga in Latvia using a process called electrospinning to create polymeric fibers. By adjusting the power rotator we can adjust the type of polymer we will be pulling out and its thickness.

One of the research’s challenges is aligning and controlling how layers of polymers interact with each other. It’s very difficult to control how each strand vibrates relative to the other, and if you put them in the wrong order, the power generated will be suppressed.

Another challenge is that polymers are very soft and can be easily deformed. So when we try to look inside materials to assess the structure, they can melt or break. This makes characterization of the material difficult, and the process of creating these microscopically small polymer thin layers is very slow.

A modern solution to an ancient problem

Despite these challenges, we have come a very long way since the ancient Greeks first understood electric charge.

Our research over the past three years has looked at plastics and how to control chemistry to affect electrical charge. It is the pinnacle of New insights into how to charge plasticactivated by quantum physics in the 1900s and the development of instrumentation that allowed us to detect exactly what was going on—because we needed to measure very small currents at very precise intervals.

We are currently looking at different ways to use the energy we generate. This research produces 400 times more energy than before. However, it is still a relatively small amount, so applications will vary to say solar cells or other types of mass energy generation.

Right now, we’ve only looked at two types of plastic, but there are hundreds more that will allow us to generate more energy.

Most likely the energy generated will be used at its source, so this small but precious energy will not be lost during transmission. There are also potential applications in acoustic energy harvesting—where you capture energy from people talking and vibrating.

Now that we know that we can take these fibers and command them to generate an electrical charge, we can implement different form factors, such as hollow liners inside pipes or padding can record how much vibration a shipped package goes through and start designing it to solve different problems. This could have applications if we consider coating pipes or building pylons to harness infrastructure energy for example.

The transformative potential of this discovery is exciting, although it will take a few more years as we learn more about how to harness the energy from small movements to make big strides.

More information:
Artis Linarts et al., Electrospinning Triboelectric Laminates: The Road to Scaling Up Energy Harvesters, Little (2023). DOI: 10.1002/smll.202205563

Journal information:

quote: Harvesting Big Energy from Small Motion (2023, January 27) taken January 27, 2023 from html

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