Feb 6, 2018 | By Benedict

Researchers from the Clemson Nanomaterials Institute (CNI) in South Carolina have used 3D printing to create a wireless triboelectric nanogenerator that generates electricity from motion and vibrations.

(L-R) Ramakrishna Podila, Apparao Rao, Sai Sunil Mallineni, and Yongchang Dong

Triboelectricity, an electric charge generated by nothing more than friction, is a green energy source that researchers at Clemson University think could power the planet. Last year, the group of scientists made a simple triboelectric nanogenerator made of plastic and tape—materials that have such opposing behavior with regard to electrons that they generate a voltage when brought together.

That generator could generate electricity through clapping or tapping of feet, and could then transfer that energy for storage in a battery or capacitor.

It almost sounds too simple to be effective, but the Clemson researchers have just updated their technology in a way that could make it a great deal more useful. It’s now wireless, and its plastic parts have been swapped for a multipart fiber made of graphene and PLA. The Kapton tape of the original, which was used for grabbing electrons, has been replaced with Teflon.

It’s this graphene-PLA fiber that’s got us especially excited. For one, it’s very hard to manipulate graphene, but the Clemson researchers used a process called “sonification” to split graphite into layers with high-frequency sound waves. And with PLA in the mix too, the fiber becomes 3D printable.

A 3D printer is used to print the graphene-PLA nanofiber

Using a 3D printer, the team was able to fabricate the new “W-TENG” nanogenerator, which is capable of generating up to 3000 volts—enough to power 25 standard electrical outlets. And because the voltage is so high, the W-TENG generates an electric field that can be sensed wirelessly, making it a kind of two-in-one power source and electronic device.

"It cannot only give you energy, but you can use the electric field also as an actuated remote,” explained Sai Sunil Mallineni, first author of the study. “For example, you can tap the W-TENG and use its electric field as a ‘button’ to open your garage door, or you could activate a security system—all without a battery, passively and wirelessly.”

The wireless W-TENG could be used in outer space, in the middle of the ocean, or even in military situations, where power supply may be scarce. It could also be used to provide power in disaster zones or developing countries.

“Several developing countries require a lot of energy, though we may not have access to batteries or power outlets in such settings,” said Ramakrishna Podila, corresponding author of the study. “The W-TENG could be one of the cleaner ways of generating energy in these areas.”

The researchers are currently seeking a patent for their 3D printed wireless nanogenerator. Their paper, “A Wireless Triboelectric Nanogenerator,” has been published in Advanced Energy Materials.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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