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Tiny patch generates electricity from muscle motion to power wearables

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Technology is rapidly changing day by day. Now even technology can use us to power itself using skin as one of its charge-collectors.
National University of Singapore

This new device is developed by researchers from the National University of Singapore, this
tiny, flexible patch can gather static electricity from your movements and by using that energy to power small electronic devices.
According to Prachi Patel reports for IEEE Spectrum, “This stamp-sized flexible patch can generate 7.5 V of electric potential simply from you talking or flexing your fist. If you touch gently with a finger, it can generate a maximum of 90 V of open circuit voltage
and 0.8 mW – enough power to light up 12 commercial LEDs.”
Chengkuo Lee and his team demonstrated this device at the IEEE International Conference on Micro Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS) 2015
in Portugal in January, the patch can successfully be used as a
wearable, self-powered sensor that tracks the user’s activity and
movements for the whole day.
As researchers are trying from so many years to develop nanogenerators that use body movements to power medical implants and electronic devices. This kind of power generator can be scaled up to create new type of wearable electronic devices that doesn’t require power source i.e. battery and charged by the wearer’s body movements.
The working of this device is based on collecting static electricity – the type of
electricity that makes your hair stand on end when you rub a balloon on
it – and it then converts this mechanical energy into electrical energy.
This phenomenon is known as the triboelectric effect, and, unlike
piezoelectric materials, which generate electrical energy when put under
stress, this effect requires two different surfaces being put into
close contact to generate static.
A potential
difference is generated when these two materials are pulled part or flexed and a current flows between two materials,
which can be collected using an electrode, as Patel explains.
In
the case of this device, Lee and his team created a material out of
thousand of tiny pillar-like structures, stuck onto a flexible silicon
layer. These little pillars increase the surface area of the material,
which means it can generate more friction. 

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And the material that it rubs against? Our skin.
“Skin,
the most abundant surface on a human body, is a natural choice for one
of the triboelectric layers,” Lokesh Dhakar, Lee’s graduate student, told IEEE Spectrum
“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.”
The
patch is backed by a 50 nm-thick layer of gold, which acts as an
electrode to collect all of that static electricity. So, to be fair, the
technology isn’t sucking anything out of us, it’s just using our
friction to power itself.
The team has now tested the patch by
attacking it to a wearer’s throat or forearm, and have shown it can
successfully generate enough electricity to power a sensor.
They’re not the first to build a device like this – in 2013, a team from the US developed
a triboelecric generator that was much bigger and far more powerful.
But it used indium tin oxide as the electrode, which meant that the
whole thing was far less flexible. 
By improving how well these
kind of devices move, the Singapore-based researchers are hoping they
can make devices that can be integrated into wearable technology and
also scaled up. Eventually it’s hope they’ll be able to use the material
to charge larger devices – think mobile phones and potentially even
laptops – simply by rubbing against our skin.
Source: IEEE Spectrum

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