Researchers use paper to create lightweight energy generator

April 14, 2017 // By Nick Flaherty
Researchers in Georgia and China have developed a light-weight, paper-based device that can harvest and store energy from body movements.

Zhong Lin Wang, Chenguo Hu and colleagues have created triboelectric nanogenerators (TENGs) that can harness the mechanical energy created by footsteps to power portable electronics. But most TENG devices are built from heavy acrylic materials and take several hours to charge small electronics.

So the researchers developed a rhombic paper-cut design a few inches long and covered it with different materials to turn it into a power unit. The four outer sides, made of gold- and graphite-coated sand paper, comprised the device's energy-storing supercapacitor element. The inner surfaces, made of paper and coated in gold and a fluorinated ethylene propylene film, comprised the TENG energy harvester. Pressing and releasing it over just a few minutes charged the 1mF supercapacitor to 1 V, which was enough to power a remote control, temperature sensor or a watch.

Using paper gives the design a charge output of 82 nC/g (75 nC/cm3) which compares well to a traditional acrylic-based TENG at 5.7 nC/g (5.8 nC/cm3).  

The research was backed by the Georgia Tech Hightower Chair Foundation at the Georgia Institute of Technology, the Thousands Talents Plan of China, and the Key Technologies R&D Program from the Ministry of Science and Technology in China, and was reported in the American Chemical Society .

Related stories: