This new material could charge your phone while you breathe

Georgia Tech

We’ve seen the idea of using piezoelectricity to recharge our electronics—simply by swiping at them or shaking them—in the past. A Georgia Tech science team led by Zhong Lin Wang proposes that a new material does not need to be actively shaken and instead can generate a charge from tiny vibrations that you body emits naturally.

The new two-ply nanoscale material works by rubbing together a polyethylene terephthalate plastic layer and a small sheet of metal to generate a charge. Since the material is so tiny, it is sensitive enough to produce a constant stream of energy from the simple act of shivering in the cold, or breathing regularly, or even from the blood flowing in your veins.

According to MIT’s Technology Review, Wang says a fingernail-sized square of this triboelectric nanomaterial could produce up to eight milliwatts, which is enough to power a pacemaker. When scaled up to a five centimeter-squared piece of material, it could power 600 LEDs at the same time.

Currently the material is only able to convert about 15 to 30 percent of the mechanical motion into usable electricity, but Wang believes this efficiency can be boosted by 40 percent by using thinner materials.

The next step for the project is to see if the technology works outside of a lab-testing environment. Eventually the scientists hope to incorporate their technology into wearable armband to constantly charge our devices wherever we are without looking weird.

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