New Device Generating Electricity in Contact with Other Surfaces

Monday, June 3, 2019 - 15:20

Researchers from Rice University have developed laser-induced graphene (LIG) into small, metal-free devices that generate electricity.

According to the Rice University report, wearable devices that harvest energy from movement are not a new idea, but a material created at Rice University may make them more practical.

In experiments, the researchers connected a folded strip of LIG to a string of light-emitting diodes and found that tapping the strip produced enough energy to make them flash. A larger piece of LIG embedded within a flip-flop let a wearer generate energy with every step, as the graphene composite’s repeated contact with skin produced a current to charge a small capacitor.

“This could be a way to recharge small devices just by using the excess energy of heel strikes during walking, or swinging arm movements against the torso,” the Rice lab of chemist James Tour said. The project is detailed in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Nano.

The best configuration, with electrodes of the polyimide-LIG composite and aluminum, produced voltages above 3.5 kilovolts with a peak power of more than 8 milliwatts.

“The nanogenerator embedded within a flip-flop was able to store 0.22 millijoules of electrical energy on a capacitor after a 1-kilometer walk,” said Rice postdoctoral researcher Michael Stanford, lead author of the paper. “This rate of energy storage is enough to power wearable sensors and electronics with human movement.”

Co-authors of the paper are Rice graduate students Yieu Chyan and Zhe Wang and undergraduate students John Li and Winston Wang. Tour is the T.T. and W.F. Chao Chair in Chemistry as well as a professor of computer science and of materials science and nanoengineering at Rice.

The Air Force Office of Scientific Research supported the research.

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