One of the biggest problems with harvesting energy is waste: so much potential power is lost due to the limitations of technology. Scientists have struggled to find a solution to this, and each effort has been met with failure and frustration. But things have changed; now it appears that a new energy harvesting concept could save all that formerly wasted power and turn it into something remarkable.
Scientists at Penn State University have designed a mechanical energy transducer that can harvest ambient power and use it to run next-generation electronic devices. The device captures mechanical ambient energy, turning it into electrical power that is compatible with next-generation technology. Scientists are particularly excited for the potential this invention has to power the Internet of Things (IoT), the shorthand for real-world objects with network connectivity.
The device, which is known as an ionic diode, operates thanks to two nanocomposite electrodes. These electrodes have oppositely charged mobile ions, which are separated by nothing more than a polycarbonate membrane. The electrodes are made up of a polymeric matrix that is then filled with carbon nanotubes. Finally, the nanotubes are infused with ionic liquids.
This impressive piece of engineering is perfectly calibrated to collect low-frequency energy. When mechanical force is applied to the ionic diode, the ions diffuse across the membrane. This creates a continuous direct current, while simultaneously creating a built-in potential that opposes ion diffusion. The end result is a device that could theoretically charge 40% of a battery through simple mechanical energy.
Once the ionic diode is perfected, users can enjoy batteries that are charged simply from the act of using the devices they power. From smartphones charged by using their touch screens to wearable electronics that stay powered simply from wearing them, this mechanical energy harvester is going to change the way we power or next generation devices.