Scientists provide the maths necessary to make triboelectric nanogenerators the most efficient at harvesting the body’s mechanical energy.

We can consider the human body as a sustainable and portable source of energy.

The conversion of mechanical energy generated by muscles into electricity by using pedals and an alternator when biking is a classic example of tapping the human body as a power source.

In addition to movement, body heat can also be recovered and converted into electricity.

With the proliferation of portable electronics, wearables, and other connected objects that need to be recharged, we cannot neglect the energy potential of the human body.

For techwear to truly take off, we need energy harvesters to capture and convert the body energy that naturally dissipates throughout the day into a form of usable energy.

Since they were invented in 2012, triboelectric energy harvesters, or Triboelectric Nanogenerators (TENGs), have been at the center of intense investigation by scientists.

Besides being cheap and requiring an easy fabrication process, TENGs outperform other technologies when it comes to conversion efficiency.

However, there’s still room for improvement.

Read More: New Flexible Electronics Breakthrough Brings Techwear Ever Closer

Blueprint for the Optimization of TENG Performance

TENG technology is based on the triboelectric effect via the use of materials that generate power as they come into friction with another material.

In the last six years, since the concept of triboelectric energy harvesters was first introduced, much of the research focuses on improving the output performance of TENGs.

Now, scientists from the Advanced Technology Institute (ATI) at the University of Surrey (UK) provide “a step-by-step guide” to make TENGs as efficient as possible at converting mechanical energy.

ATI researchers say that the performance of TENGs “depends on the electric field behavior of constituent TENG layers. However, the power transmitted from the TENG to an external load depends largely on its internal impedance characteristics”.

This blueprint from ATI mainly presents two tools that will help engineers optimize the performance of TENGs:

  • “TENG power transfer equation” to predict the output behavior of TENGs.
  • “TENG impedance plots” to select optimum motion conditions.

ATI Director, Professor Ravi Silva, thinks this new study will put the ATI and the University of Surrey “in a world-leading position for designing optimized energy harvesters.”

Ph.D. student Ishara Dharmasena, and lead researcher, said:

“I am extremely excited with this new study which redefines the way we understand energy harvesting. The new tools developed here will help researchers all over the world to exploit the true potential of triboelectric nanogenerators, and to design optimized energy harvesting units for custom applications.”

The paper, Nature of Power Generation and Output Optimization Criteria for Triboelectric Nanogenerators, published by the Advanced Energy Materials, is available at Wiley Online Library

What other energy harvesting tech is close to TENG in advantages?

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