Short Bytes: A research paper published in the journal Nature Communications throws light on a new research in progress under the MIT roofs. It is a new system developed by Professor Ju Li and his team, which converts mechanical energy directly into electricity.
Li believes that the newly developed system can be used to engineer wearable tech, as it provides a more pliant build. It can easily withstand any mechanical stress applied to it. Though, chances are less any humans will be able to break it.
With a resemblance to the Li-ion batteries, the metal and polymer sandwich creates electricity through bending exercises it performs when stress is applied on it. And it is very much different from other methods developed earlier, “triboelectric effect (essentially friction, like rubbing a balloon against a wool sweater) or piezoelectrics (crystals that produce a small voltage when bent or compressed)”. And they have their own limitations, work efficiently only with machines which can act as a source of high-frequency motion. Sadly, humans have their physical incapacities, that’s why they built those machines.
The electrochemical system comprises of lithium alloys in the form of two thin sheets as electrodes, sandwiched with a porous polymer soaked with liquid electrolytes and efficiently transfers ions between the two metal plates. It is like a fuel cell or a battery, think you have a battery with unlimited charging, a great boon for your dying smartphone, but who will exert the force all the time for that purpose.
Now to create electricity, you have to bend the system and the lithium ions will start flowing through the polymer due to the pressure difference generated in the layered composite, accompanied by a counteracting voltage in the external circuit between the two nodes. Electrical current starts flowing in the external circuit which can be used to power devices.
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— says Li. The electrochemomechanical working principle was successfully demonstrated with the help of the first-gen device developed. Although, “in principle, [the efficiency] could be 100 percent”, he says.
The power generation tech can find its use in biomedical devices and as stress sensing devices on keyboards, footpaths and roads. A device that can act as a fountainhead of virtually unlimited power can prove to be of substantial utility in mechanical and environmental monitoring applications also. “We just created the opposite”, says Li, as the method of putting in stress and getting an output voltage used in the new electrochemical system “was considered a parasitic effect in the battery community”. He says that “it’s a good way to evaluate damage mechanisms in batteries, a way to understand battery materials better”.
So, we have this energy source that can be used in wearable devices that could be worn either on your knees or elbow and it is not hard to believe, you might be wearing one in a couple of years. Seriously, MIT has some serious brains at their disposal and they have the propensity of being in the news for the stupendous stuff they create, like their new SMS system which is considered to be more anonymous than TOR.
Source: MIT, Image: Courtesy of the researchers
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