A nanogenerator has set a new record by stretching in a manner similar to rubber band to more than 25 times its original length. This represents a 2500% stretchability factor, which beats the previous record of 1000%. This nanogenerator is also unique as it is the first to be created using three-dimensional printing.
The results of the original research can be found in an article published in Nature Communications titled “Extremely Stretchable and Self-Healing Conductor Based on Thermoplastic Elastomer for All-Three-Dimensional Printed Triboelectric Nanogenerator” (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-10061-y).
A nanogenerator is a type of technology that converts mechanical or thermal energy into electricity. A triboelectric nanogenerator is essentially an energy-harvesting device, which converts external mechanical energy into electricity using the triboelectric effect (process whereby certain materials become electrically charged after they are separated from another material they were in contact with) and electrostatic induction (the reorganization of electric charges in an object). Triboelectric nanogenerators are able to harvest energy from small movements such as the tapping of fingers and are potentially able to be used as wearable electronic devices.
The researchers from the Nanyang Technology University and the Singapore-HUJ Alliance for Research and Enterprise, which included Kaushik Parida, Gurunathan Thangavel and Pooi See Lee had to deal with the issue regarding the two layers of the TENG. These layers, which are the triboelectric layer and the conductor, have very different properties regarding their elasticity, which causes them to come apart after being stretched repeatedly. In order to resolve this issue the researchers used the same type of elastic material as the base for both layers. In addition, liquid metal particles and silver flakes added to the conductor increased conductivity levels.
This nanogenerator has two other unique features. Amazingly, the nanogenerator can actually be cut apart into several pieces and is able to regain its original abilities after a 24-hour long heating process. A second unique feature is the fact that all of the components of the nanogenerator were printed using a 3D printer, another first in the field of nanogenerators.
Due to its unique capabilities regarding high stretchability levels and conductivity and the fact that it is relatively easy to create, opens up a world of possibilities in the field of small portable self-powered electronics.
Further information: Kaushik Parida et al. “Extremely stretchable and self-healing conductor based on thermoplastic elastomer for all-three-dimensional printed triboelectric nanogenerator.”, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-10061-y, Nature Communications, volume 10, Article number: 2158 (2019)