An international team of researchers has developed an innovative new material that can simultaneously harvest solar and wind energy, making it ideal for use in crowded cities. The contraption, according to the scientists, could produce power for “smart cities” across the globe, where lack of sufficient space prevents conventional wind turbines from being installed.
While some of the world’s busiest cities have already integrated technologies that can gather solar power from rooftops and even windows, wind energy has largely remained untapped, mainly because the huge size of traditional wind turbines makes them less suited to urban areas. As part of a recent research, scientists from the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Beijing Institute of Nanoenergy and Nanosystems have designed a new device that can trap both wind and sun’s energy at the same time.
Unlike currently-available technologies that rely on wind’s forces to spin a special rotor, the new contraption works via what is known as the triboelectric effect, which is basically the mechanism behind everyday static electricity. As the team explains, when two separate materials are repeatedly rubbed against each other, the surface of one material might end up losing electrons to the other material, thus resulting in the build-up of electrical charge.
The device, according to the researchers, contains a triboelectric nanogenerator as well as a set of silicon solar cells. The nanogenerator is in turn made up of ultra-thin layers of plastic and Teflon, with air between them. When exposed to wind, the plastic film moves toward and away from the layer of Teflon, thereby producing triboelectricity. Speaking about the contraption, which measures around 120 mm in length, 22 mm in width and only 4 mm in depth, Ya Yang, a scientist at the Beijing Institute of Nanoenergy and Nanosystems and the study’s co-author, said:
The device could be extensively installed on the roofs of city buildings.
During laboratory testing, the hybrid device generated about 8 mW of solar energy and nearly 26 mW of wind energy. As the team points out, it would take only 10 minutes for the new technology to charge a lithium-ion battery from 0.2 up to 2.1 volts. What is more, it could power a variety of small electronic devices, including humidity and temperature sensors found in today’s smart houses.
Upon further development, the device will be capable of producing up to 5 volts of electricity. The findings were published in a recent issue of the ACS Nano journal.
Via: IEEE Spectrum