One day it may be possible to harvest the otherwise wasted energy of your footsteps or of cars driving by to power your smartphone.
That’s the concept researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology are developing using what’s technically known as the triboelectric effect to create surprising amounts of electric power by rubbing or touching two different materials together.
Beyond generating power, the technology could also provide a new type of self-powered sensor, allowing detection of vibrations, motion, water leaks, explosions—or even rain falling.
“We are able to deliver small amounts of portable power for today’s mobile and sensor applications,” says Zhong Lin Wang, a professor in the School of Materials Science and Engineering. “This opens up a source of energy by harvesting power from activities of all kinds.”