Tacky tape: a new source for generating energy?

Thursday, 08 December, 2022

Tacky tape: a new source for generating energy?

Researchers are working to harness the energy from static electricity with triboelectric nanogenerators (TENGs) to power everyday devices. Now, in ACS Omega, a team of researchers have described an easy way to manufacture these generators out of materials as simple as double-sided store-bought tacky tape that pack in higher energy densities than previously reported versions.

TENGs can transform mechanical energy into electrical energy through the triboelectric effect, which is a form of static electricity. But instead of that static turning into shock, these nanogenerators send it through a circuit to power a device, such as an LED. Based on simple principles, many TENG devices are complicated and expensive to make and only produce a few watts of power. Previous research has shown that simplified TENGs can be made with a combination of tape, plastic and metal, but their lower power densities have prevented them from being used in practical applications. Researchers Gang Wang and colleagues have designed an uncomplicated, easy-to-fabricate TENG that would work as well as more sophisticated designs.

The researchers created a TENG with layers of store-bought double-sided tape and plastic film covered with a thin sheet of aluminium metal. When these two layers were pressed together then disconnected from one another, a small spark formed between them. If more pressure was placed on the layers, they could generate more power, with the TENG able to produce power densities consistent with that of other, more complicated versions. A double-electrode version of the device could even produce a power density of 169.9 watts per square metre — reportedly 47% higher than that previously reported for other devices.

In a series of tests, the researchers put the TENG through its paces. When hooked up to an array of LEDs, the generator could light up over 400 lights simultaneously when someone pressed the layers. Attaching the TENG to the bottom of a shoe could turn on LEDs with the power of a single step. The generator also powered a laser diode, which could pave the way for use in sensors and light-based electronics. The researchers say that this generator design could help meet larger power demands for self-powering electronics with simpler and cheaper materials.

They received funding from the College of Engineering at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and Materials Sciences LLC.

Image credit: iStock.com/Dimitris66

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