A smart way of putting together lots of nanogenerators that exploit static electricity to generate a current could open up a new kind of wave power Wa

Tiny static electricity generators could produce power from waves

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2022-09-22 18:00:27

A smart way of putting together lots of nanogenerators that exploit static electricity to generate a current could open up a new kind of wave power

Wave power may be about to get a boost from tiny generators that rely on a phenomenon called the triboelectric effect. A team in China has unveiled a design that doubles the previous record for this technology for power generated per unit volume.

Unlike with wind and solar power, high costs are still preventing wave energy taking off in a big way. Existing systems generate power when wave motion drives electromagnetic induction, which involves magnets moving through coils, but these are heavy, expensive and inefficient, says Joao Ventura at the University of Porto in Portugal.

One alternative is to create wave power systems that capture energy by exploiting the build-up of static electricity when different materials rub together, like a balloon against hair. This phenomenon is known as the triboelectric effect, and the discharge of the built-up static charge can generate a current. Devices to harness this effect are known as “nanogenerators”.

Many teams are developing triboelectric systems for small-scale applications like powering pacemakers or generating electricity from the motion of socks or backpacks, but so far no devices containing the nanogenerators have gone on sale.

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