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U.S. researchers develop device to harvest energy from human motion

(Xinhua)    09:42, December 11, 2016

The movement of finger swipes may soon be able to charge our cellphones.

Researchers at Michigan State University has created a new way to harvest energy from human motion, using a flexible, thin and non-toxic device that actually can be folded to create more power.

The research, funded by the National Science Foundation, suggests "we're on the path toward wearable devices powered by human motion," said Nelson Sepulveda, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and lead investigator of the project.

The completed device is called a biocompatible ferroelectret nanogenerator, or FENG, in the journal Nano Energy.

Demonstration videos show that with the low-cost device, the scientists successfully operated an LCD touch screen, a bank of 20 LED lights and a flexible keyboard, all with a simple touching or pressing motion and without the aid of a battery.

The device can be adapted to many applications and sizes. The nanogenerator used to power the LED lights was palm-sized, while the device used to power the touch screen was as small as a finger.

According to the study, the film-like substrate consists of a silicone wafer, which is fabricated with several layers, or thin sheets, of environmentally friendly substances including silver, polyimide and polypropylene ferroelectret. The layers are infused with ions.

When the device is compressed by human motion, or mechanical energy, electrical energy is created. Impressively, the device also becomes more powerful when folded.

"What I foresee, relatively soon, is the capability of not having to charge your cell phone for an entire week, for example, because that energy will be produced by your movement," said Sepulveda in a statement.

Researchers believe FENG is "a promising and alternative method in the field of mechanical-energy harvesting," which is aided by its advantages, such as light weight, flexible, biocompatible, scalable, low-cost and robust.

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