Triboelectric Power!

Convert friction into coulombs

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Portable non invasive power generation and harvesting has been an unrealized dream for survivors of disaster, the third world where grid power is not readily available and in military applications.

While some options have been proffered (piezo electric, electromechanical generator using wind/gravity/human energy) they all have major drawbacks in efficiency, space and complexity. A recent interest scientifically has been in triboelectric generators as they are simple, robust and can be very efficient at converting friction into electrical energy.

I present a novel method for creating a portable triboelectric generator and soon better implementations of such that can be used in situations that allow it to stand above the other less desirable options.

Triboelectric materials demonstrate a phenomenon that some give up electrons and some attract electrons when friction is present between them.  Rubbing the two materials can present a static charge between the two.  Similar to when you rub a balloon on your head and it will stick to a wall or cause your hair to stand on end.  This phenomenon can be used to generate useful power.  As the materials are seperated an electrical potential is present.

I noticed a few months back while using epoxy filled with diatomaceous earth to thicken it that it, when cured, had a strong electrostatic attraction to the nitrile gloves I was using.  I looked further on the internet and saw there is a new class of materials called triboelectric nano-generators.  The proposed theory for the efficiency is that materials with nanoscopic details present more surface area for the momentary bonding and electron exchange between them. 

Looking at a table of triboelectric materials we see that silicone (and silica the primary constituent of diatoms) is very negative on the spectrum and natural latex rubber is very positive.  Diatoms and fused silica have very fine nanoscopic structures that should satisfy the criteria for higher efficiency.  Here I go again making a mockery of legitimate scientific research.

I decided to throw something together the last day of the challenge as there is always that hackaday post by Brian urging the community to do so.

I could claim all sorts of savior of the third world savior self proclamations, or charge your cell phone by walking but all I have is a proof of concept and no oscilloscope to determine output. I can light some LED's in the dark but I will continue this work further as I have pretty much perfected my version of low cost DIY supercap/batteries and should be able to roughly quantify output at a later date while using the former to store energy produced.

Maybe I can come up with an implementation that allows the use of these materials to help in areas where electrical power is not easy to come by.

  • 1 × Carbon Fiber Thinnest lightest weave for conductive backing
  • 1 × 2 part silicone Using Dragon Skin 20 by Smooth On
  • 1 × Diatomaceous earth or fumed silica
  • 1 × Air cure Latex available at hardware or ranch store, used for repairing tarps or ripped pants
  • 1 × Wire Resistors (Fixed) / Zero Ohm Jumpers

View all 6 components

  • Video

    MECHANICUS07/16/2018 at 10:45 0 comments

    A short demonstration, it works but not well.  I believe it is over 100 volts peak to peak. It will not light any other LED except for ultraviolet for what reason I am not sure.  It probably has to do with the voltage drop over UV LED.  I will need to make a voltage divider and or a way to step down voltage to take this further in regards to providing useful amounts of power. I do not have an oscilloscope to analyze the output and multi-meters are far to slow, as it only shows .5 volts which is not nearly enough to light one of these 12v LED.  I do not have time to do more than that before the deadline but I guess in a few hours I built and demonstrated something that can begin to fulfill the energy harvesting portion of the hackaday prize 2018.

  • Last Day Shenanigans

    MECHANICUS07/16/2018 at 05:53 0 comments

    I was out of town all weekend so I took a few hours to try something out I had been wanting to.  Unlike 99% of the things I try it actually worked. There are many variables here that can be tweaked and different physical implementations to attempt but the procedure is easy enough and can be found in the directions.  

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  • 1
    Cut two square sections of carbon fiber.

    You will want to tape the edges before you cut as the CF weave will fray all over the place, You can see blue tape underneath.

  • 2
    Affix wire to the CF by weaving or taping
  • 3
    On a flat surface cover one section of the CF with liquid latex.

View all 7 instructions

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