Skin Wearable Harvests Power With Triboelectric Effect

This new wearable device harvests power from muscle movements under the skin. The postage-stamp-sized device takes advantage of the triboelectric effect.


(Flexible generator converts muscle movements into power)

The new device, which researchers from the National University of Singapore presented at the IEEE MEMS 2015 conference last week, can generate 90 volts of open circuit voltage when touched gently with a finger.

the triboelectric effect, electrical charge builds up on two dissimilar surfaces when they’re put in close contact. When they are pulled apart or flexed, a potential difference is generated and a current starts flowing between them that can be collected using an electrode.

“Skin, the most abundant surface on a human body, is a natural choice for one of the triboelectric layers,” says Lee’s graduate student Lokesh Dhakar. Device fabrication becomes simpler because you don’t need to make one of the layers, he says. “Also skin as a triboelectric material has a high tendency to donate electrons or get positively charged which is important in improving the performance of the device if the other triboelectric layer intentionally chosen as the one with a tendency to get negatively charged.”

For that negative layer, Dhakar and his colleagues created thousands of tiny pillar-like structures on a flexible silicone rubber layer. Underneath the rubber sheet, they bond a 50nm-thick gold film that acts as the device’s electrode. The pillars increase the surface area of the device that touches the skin, which increases friction and hence the current produced.

Fans of sf great Frank Herbert remember that the stillsuit from his 1965 masterpiece Dune used power harvesting from the body (the mechanical energy of breathing to generate power) to run the suit.

When he had tightened the chest to gain maximum pumping action from the motion of breathing, he had known what he did and why.

Via IEEE Spectrum.

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