Remarkable New Material Charges Devices Using Finger Swipes

Swipe your way to a fully charged smartphone.

12. 12. 16 by Cecille De Jesus
Image by Qeexo

No Battery Needed

Engineering researchers from Michigan State University have developed a device that would allow you to power your electronics with just a touch and without a battery.

The device, called a biocompatible ferroelectret nanogenerator (FENG), uses a sheet of silicon that houses layers of multiple substances including silver, polyimide, and polypropylene ferroelectret — all of which are environment-friendly. These layers are imbued with ions, and the result is a low-cost, efficient generator that runs on mechanical energy, such as motion or pressure.

“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 project leader Nelson Sepulveda in a press release.

The most impressive part is that the device actually gets more powerful when folded — the smaller it gets, the more energy it can generate! “Each time you fold it, you are increasing exponentially the amount of voltage you are creating,” said Sepulveda. “You can start with a large device, but when you fold it once, and again, and again, it’s now much smaller and has more energy. Now it may be small enough to put in a specially made heel of your shoe so it creates power each time your heel strikes the ground.”


The biocompatible ferroelectret nanogenerator, or FENG. Michigan State University.

Clean Energy as the New Norm

As the world has recognized the need for more environmentally conscious energy solutions, several technologies have emerged to help us curb our environmental footprint. The good news is that this global competition is causing such innovations to become simpler and cheaper.

The new technologies are quite ingenious, too. Technology company Pavegen designed floor tiles that generate energy from people’s weight as they walk. A new photocell design efficiently harvests solar power by mimicking how plants’ leaves do it. There’s also the beta.ray by German Architect Andre Broessel and Makani’s Energy Kite.

With FENG now allowing us to generate power with the swipe of a finger, alternative energy has never felt so tangible.

Floor tiles that generate energy as people walk. Pavegen.

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