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Walking can recharge the spirit, but what about our phones?

back of a man with a  self charging backpack

A new device harnesses the energy created by natural human walking to simultaneously light more than 40 commercial LEDs. The technology could revolutionize the way we charge small electronic devices, reducing dependence on non-renewable power sources and untethering users from fixed charging stations.

Credit: Zhong Lin Wang, Georgia Tech.


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illustration showing how the triboelectric nanogenerator works

The triboelectric nanogenerator (TENG) is made from thin, lightweight plastic sheets, interlocked in a rhombic grid. As the wearer walks, the rhythmic movement that occurs as his/her weight shifts from side to side causes the inside surfaces of the plastic sheets to touch and then separate, touch and then separate. The periodic contact and separation drives electrons back and forth, producing an alternating electric current.

This process, known as the triboelectrification effect, also underlies static electricity. The key to the new technology is the addition of highly charged nanomaterials that maximize the contact between the two surfaces, pumping up the energy output of the TENG.

Credit: Zhong Lin Wang, Georgia Tech


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