Using Polymers to Generate Electricity from FrictionCategory: Science & Technology
Posted: July 9, 2012 03:05PM
Friction is something we have all come to live with as it slows us down and heats us up, but soon it may be used to power our devices. Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a triboelectric generator that uses friction to create an electric current. The phenomenon being used has been known to exist for years, but this is the first time it has been implemented to provide useable power.
When two materials rub against each other, it is possible for one to donate electrons to the other. If the materials are then separated, before the electrons could move back, the charge differential can be used to create a current. For their experiments, the researchers used sheets of polyester and polydimethysiloxane (PDMS) that had specific patterns on their surfaces. While a current can be produced with the smooth sheet, the researchers found that putting a pyramid pattern on one of the surfaces created the most charge.
As the generator is made from polymers, it can be made at low cost and be scaled up in size. Also, the plastics used are as much as 75% transparent, which gives it a variety of potential uses, including as a touchscreen system that does not need to draw power from a battery. The researchers’ next step is to develop storage mechanisms for the electricity the triboelectric generator produces.