T-shirts and shoes to power mobile devices with TENG technology

University of Surrey researchers improve technology for wearable electricity nanogenerators

Tags: Research and developmentUnited KingdomUniversity of Surrey (www.surrey.ac.uk)
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T-shirts and shoes to power mobile devices with TENG technology The University of Surrey has enhanced the TENG technology which can turn clothing into an electricity generator.
By  Mark Sutton Published  July 20, 2017

The University of Surrey is developing new technology which will allow smart clothing to act as a power source to generate electricity and charge mobile devices.

The technology uses Triboelectric Nanogenerators (TENGs), energy harvesting devices, which convert the movements of materials that produce static charge into usable electricity. Items such as t-shirts and shoes can be equipped with TENGs so that movements such as walking or running will harvest the mechanical energy and converts it into electricity. This can then be stored in batteries or supercapacitors to power mobile devices.

The UK university is also looking at how the TENG technology could be used in in developing countries, particularly in remote ‘off-grid' locations, to generate power for equipment such as radios, wireless communication devices, and medical equipment as well as to provide larger amounts of power for things like households, using large scale TENG networks.

The University of Surrey group of researchers have introduced a new model of the original TENG concept, which was originally invented by Professor Zhong Lin Wang at Georgia Tech. The researchers' new model has improved sensors and energy generating devices which can be made into wearable applications, such as sewn into a T-shirt like a patch, or attached inside a pair of shoes.

TENGs could also be used in a sensor pad on a pavement that would light streetlamps by the energy created when stepped on by pedestrians, or placed inside a car tyre which would connect to the vehicle's battery to create electricity.

University of Surrey PhD student Ishara Dharmasena, lead scientist in the project, said: "TENGs provide the wearer with a self-powered system so they can generate their own power for their energy needs, just with everyday movements, in a cost-effective way. We're very pleased that our research has laid a platform for developing highly efficient TENGs."

Professor Ravi Silva, director of the ATI and the principle supervisor of this project, said: "Wearable TENGs can be made from natural fabrics, such as cotton or wool, so the idea is carbon-friendly and a "renewable" technology, and could be used for years.

"We're looking forward to creating systems to generate power that have the advantages of being portable, autonomous and self-powered."

This research is expected to benefit people worldwide in areas of wearable and portable electronics, information and communication, medical applications, and industrial sectors. 

TENGs should be available in shops within the next few years; in the near future, they should be able to be used to harness wind and wave energy to help provide power to the nation's main grid for industrial and household use.

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