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Couch Potato No More: Nanogenerator Harvests Can Let You Power LCD Screens by Just Swiping

Dec 12, 2016 05:49 AM EST

A new trend in nanotechnology is going to redefine couch potatoes. A newly developed nanogenerator can now offer the means to convert energy expended in a standard swipe into sufficient power to light up a screen. 

The nanogenerator in question is a biocompatible ferroelectret nanogenerator or a FENG. It's a paper-thin sheet of layered materials composed of silver, polyimide, and a sort of molecule called the polypropylene ferroelectret. These layers are loaded up with charged ions that, when compressed, can produce electrical energy.

According to R&D Mag, this can be a much more efficient method of storing and using energy. This was made by researchers from Michigan State University, where they successfully operated an LCD touch screen, a bank of 20 LED lights and a flexible keyboard without the aid of a battery and by simply touching or pressing the screen. 

According to Nano Energy, the FENG uses huge dipoles -- or oppositely charged poles -- on different layers that change under pressure. This generates electric potential and, in turn, electrical energy. 

According to Motherboard, the system works using the fundamental rules of energy. There's a lot of energy lying around waiting to be transformed. For instance, brakes on cars and trains can turn momentum into heat, which we now have systems for recycling. However, this proves that there are more ways to use "ambient" energy such as walking.

Interestingly, what makes this different from other self-powered devices is that the FENG is not piezoelectric (generates electricity via squishing crystals) or triboelectric (via friction). 

The paper describes the advantages of their paper by making sure the method is low-cost and avoids the use of harmful elements and toxic materials. This makes it more attractive for biocompatible and even implantable applications. 

It even becomes more powerful when loaded. Nelson Sepulveda explained in a statement that each time the device is folded, its potential to make voltages is increased exponentially. It may be small enough to be put on a shoe, but it creates a lot of power by the time it strikes the ground.

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