Scientists claim nanogenerators could produce significant electricity from sea waves
Wave power from the sea has a lot of potential as a renewable energy source, but it is still not widely used.
However, it may soon receive the boost it needs to become commercially viable thanks to a new invention made up of tiny generators that rely on the triboelectric effect, according to an article published by New Scientist on Friday.
Capturing energy from static electricity
The new development has been unveiled by a team in China that boasts that it doubles the previous record for power generated per volume. It does this by capturing the energy that results from the static electricity that is produced when different materials rub together.
This phenomenon is known as the triboelectric effect, and devices that make use of this effect to produce energy are referred to as “nanogenerators.”
Despite numerous attempts to incorporate the triboelectric effect into current technologies, no invented devices have yet to be mass produced or even sold.
However, the new research proposes to link thousands of triboelectric nanogenerators together in long chains to generate enough power to make the devices efficient for wave power.
The new concept is being suggested by a team led by Zhong Lin Wang at the Beijing Institute of Nanoenergy and Nanosystems in China.
Wang was responsible for the first working triboelectric nanogenerator engineered in 2012.
He has now developed a design for wave power that consists of a spring-like coil inside a cylinder. As the waves push the cylinder back and forth, the separate parts of the spiral come together and separate, generating a small but significant current.
So far, the new invention has been found to produce up to 347 watts of power per cubic meter which is double the best previously achieved record. It’s also 30 times more than other triboelectric devices.
The researchers claim this is because they managed to pack more generators into the same space. When dealing with devices as small as nanogenerators, high numbers are key to getting enough energy to make a substantial impact.
Additional developments in wave power
This isn’t the only development that seeks to make a difference in the way wave power is produced and harnessed. In August of 2021, researchers designed a prototype technology they claimed was capable of doubling the power harvested from ocean waves.
The new wave energy converter developed by a research team under the leadership of RMIT University was reported to function twice as well as comparable technologies developed before by using a never before seen dual-turbine design.
In September 2022, U.S.-based startup CalWave announced the successful completion of an open-ocean test of its xWave clean power technology which demonstrated over 99 percent system uptime that lasted a total of 10 months.
These developments are crucial as wave energy is one of the most highly anticipated renewable energy sources in the world.
While the sun does not always shine and the wind does not always blow, making solar and wind energy unreliable, waves are always moving to a certain degree. Therefore, if a device could harness even its most minor movements, it could be a game changer in our renewable future.