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Generating Electricity From the Human Body

Generating Electricity From the Human Body

A new research project from the University at Buffalo and the Chinese Academy of Science (CAS) could make huge strides in bioenergy harvesting. The study has produced a small metal tab capable of generating electricity when attached to the body.

The researchers relied on triboelectric charging, which is when materials that come into contact with other materials produce a frictional charge (aka, static electricity). And while this phenomenon isn’t usually predictable (how often do we expect static shocks?), it can be under specific circumstances.

AlphaLab, Inc. notes that “if various insulating materials are pressed or rubbed together and then the amount and polarity of the charge on each surface is separately measured, a very reproducible pattern emerges.”

Indeed, “The human body is an abundant source of energy,” said lead author Qiaoqiang Gan, PhD, from the University of Buffalo. “We thought: 'Why not harness it to produce our own power?'”

The project’s breakthrough addressed the usual manufacturing difficulties for smaller nanogenerators and cost concerns.  A material known as polydimethylsiloxane was placed between two thin layers of gold, and when one of those layers is stretched – through the body’s motion or bending – it creates an electric charge.

We’ve seen a number of bioenergy harvesting solutions before – like piezoelectric kneepads – but this one seems more viable and practical than the vast majority of them.

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