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Engineers use sticky tape to generate electricity


Engineers use sticky tape to generate electricity

Simple energy harvester made with store-bought double-sided tape can light up a string of LEDs, hinting at bright future for low-cost sustainable power
December 1, 2022

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Got some double-sided tape to hang up your holiday decorations? You could use it to generate enough electricity to light up those LED strings. A new study outlines a way to make a simple, cost-effective generator from tacky tape that converts friction into electricity.

The device is a type of triboelectric nanogenerator (TENG), devices that harvest mechanical energy through the same phenomenon that causes static electricity. Compared to previous ones that are more complex, however, this tape-based generator packs almost 50 percent more energy by weight, researchers report in the journal ACS Omega.

The triboelectric effect is the buildup of electric charge on a material when it comes in contact with and then separates from a different material. Triboelectric generators integrated into clothing and shoes, for instance, show promise for capturing energy from motion to power small gadgets and wearable sensors.

Researchers have made various versions of such energy harvesters by combining different materials. But the generators are usually complex and involve creating tiny microscopic patterns on the surfaces of chosen materials.


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Mechanical and aerospace engineering professor Gang Wang at the University of Alabama and his colleagues came up with a simple design that would be easy to make. One side of their TENG is a piece of store-bought double-sided tape with an acrylic glue layer. The other is a plastic film coated on an aluminum layer.

Pressing these two materials together and pulling them apart builds up opposite charges on their surfaces, creating a spark of electricity. More pressure produces more power. Wang and colleagues say that the stickiness of the tape enhances the energy that is generated compared to previously reported devices.

In the laboratory, a generator about the size of a matchbox could power a string of 476 LED lights when pressed. It could also light up a laser diode. When attached to the bottom of a shoe, the device could power the lights with a single step, showing that it can be easily adapted to real-world applications. The TENG is also robust, and could endure over 100,000 press and release cycles.

The proposed TENG “advances the state of the art by offering low cost and easy fabrication options,” the researchers write.

Source: Jang, M-H., et al. (2022) Power Generation by a Double-Sided Tape. ACS Omega.

Image: ©Anthropocene Magazine




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