The first energy-harvesting, triboelectric fabric that is both waterproof and capable of converting energy from multiple sources – such as wind, rain and human movement – has been developed by researchers in Taiwan and the US. The development could lead to myriad applications in wearable technology, self-powered sensors and ambient energy harvesting.

Triboelectric energy is generated when certain materials are rubbed together. Friction causes electrons to be transferred from one material to the other – creating an electrical potential when the surfaces are separated. Familiar examples include the electrical shock one can experience after walking on a carpet or a balloon sticking to a wall after it has been rubbed on someone’s hair.

Because it converts kinetic energy to electrical energy, there is a great deal of interest in using the effect to harvest energy from both human movement and ambient motion such as wind or rainfall. A number of small-scale triboelectric “nanogenerators” have been developed and are particularly well-suited to harvesting energy from irregular, low-frequency motion. Read More