There are energy sources all over the place, if you know where to look. Researchers at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) have now designed new modular nanogenerators that can harvest energy from a variety of different types of motion, such as ocean waves or a person’s body movements.
The new devices are a type of triboelectric nanogenerator (TENG), which generate electricity through friction. These systems have shown promise in harvesting energy from body movements, touchscreen taps, footsteps on flooring, and even raindrops rolling down solar cells.
But as the CUHK team says, one of the main limitations for TENGs is that they require solid surfaces to remain in contact for long periods, which can be hard to sustain. Plus, over time they can damage each other.
For the new device, the researchers tapped into the friction between a solid and a liquid. They filled a finger-sized plastic tube with deionized water, which can produce electricity as this water sloshes around between two electrodes. The team calls the resulting device a water-tube-based triboelectric nanogenerator (WT-TENG).