A new generator that uses static electricity

What if the static electricity that makes your hair stand on end when you take off your sweater could charge your cell phone battery? This would make possible a new prototype generator that works with static electricity, which is inherent in any friction phenomenon between two different materials. Thus, a simple movement powered by the human body or the forces of nature contained in wind and water could generate a significant amount of energy.

[stextbox id=”info”]A functional principle based on triboelectricity[/stextbox]

This original model, publicly presented on March 4th in the journal Nature Communications, works on the principle of triboelectricity, namely the electrostatic phenomenon generated by the continuous friction of materials of different types. When there is friction between two elements, some of the electrons generated by the contact are transferred from one element to the other, even as they progressively separate from each other. This electron transfer continues and can even be amplified by repeating or mechanizing the initial friction.

The system considered here consists of four discs, including a copper rotor. It consists in turning the rotor and thus converting mechanical power into electricity with a simple movement of the hand, water running from a tap or a little wind. “It works for movements, whether regular or not, like the movements of the human body. From the moment there is mechanical movement, it can generate energy,” explains Mr. Zhong Lin Wang, a materials and engineering researcher from Georgia Institute of Technology (USA).

This assembly consists of small discs about 10 cm in diameter and made of different materials: one made of copper (the rotor) and the others made of teflon, gold and acrylic. Equipped with spokes like a bicycle wheel, these discs spin and generate an electric current which is then collected by electrodes. Although this rotation system is clever, the real innovation of this generator lies above all in its ability to collect the generated static electricity, thanks to the two electrodes placed on the same disk and protected by an acrylic support and a coating of fluorinated ethylene polypropylene. .

This first prototype is capable of delivering 1.5 watts of power for 3000 rpm, a pretty impressive efficiency of almost 24%, and is capable of powering light bulbs, a digital alarm clock or a mobile phone battery. . All this at an extremely low price.

[stextbox id=”info”]prospects for large-scale production[/stextbox]

While this type of device is not entirely new, the advances that have been made over the past two years have been remarkable, dividing the volume of the generator by 100 and multiplying its power output by 1,000. “This feat makes it possible to envisage our own portable power supply for electronic devices, but also to harness the power of wind and waves. We expect worldwide studies on this principle. In the next few years, it will become as important as light emitting diodes and organic photovoltaic cells,” promises Mr. Zhong Lin Wang.

With a wide scope and very few limitations, this system could be adapted to both home appliances and industrial-scale power generation.

With one of the highest yields and an efficiency comparable to electromagnetic induction generators, the basic principle of modern power plants, this project has already received financial support from the US Department of Energy, the US Air Force and even the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Copyright: Gary Meek

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