Will Static Electricity Someday Charge Your Cellphone?

The same thing that causes your hair to stand on edge, may be able to power your devices

Georgia Tech researchers are developing a way to turn annoying static shock into a jolt of power for your cellphone.

It’s a hard task to do but the energy your body produces through motions like walking or breathing can be used to power personal electronics and medical implants. Professor of materials science Zhong Lin Wang has been working on this for several years, experimenting with piezoelectric materials that generate an electrical voltage under mechanical stress but recently switched her research to static electricity, reports MIT Technology Review.

The same static electricity that can cause a bad hair day or a painful shock produces a triboelectric effect, which harnesses power using a metal and a certain type of plastic called polyethylene terephthalate. Georgia Tech’s nanogenerator can convert 10 to 15% of the energy in mechanical motions into electricity, and as much as 40% for thinner materials, Wang said.

The nanogenerator is still in the first stages of development and has not yet been proven to work with mechanical vibrations in real life; however, Wang is determined to partner with companies to improve the generator so that it is powerful, charges in a reasonable amount of time and can be worn on an armband to power your gadgets.

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