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The DOE Science News Source is a Newswise initiative to promote research news from the Office of Science of the DOE to the public and news media.
  • 2018-03-07 09:05:01
  • Article ID: 690690

New Insights Could Pave The Way For Self-Powered Low Energy Devices

  • Credit: Christopher Moore

    Exploring the effects of static electricty.

  • Credit: Rob Felt

    Georgia Tech professor Zhong Lin Wang poses with an array of 1,000 LED lights that can be illuminated by power produced by the force of a shoe striking a triboelectric generator placed on the floor.

Most people have felt that sting from grabbing a doorknob after walking across a carpet or seen how a balloon will stick to a fuzzy surface after a few moments of vigorous rubbing.

While the effects of static electricity have been fascinating casual observers and scientists for millennia, certain aspects of how the electricity is generated and stored on surfaces have remained a mystery.

Now, researchers have discovered more details about the way certain materials hold a charge even after two surfaces separate, information that could help improve devices that leverage such energy as a power source.

“We’ve known that energy generated in contact electrification is readily retained by the material as electrostatic charges for hours at room temperature,” said Zhong Lin Wang, Regents' Professor in the School of Materials Science and Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “Our research showed that there’s a potential barrier at the surface that prevents the charges generated from flowing back to the solid where they were from or escaping from the surface after the contacting.”

In their research, which was reported in March in the Advanced Materials, the researchers found that electron transfer is the dominant process for contact electrification between two inorganic solids and explains some of the characteristics already observed about static electricity.

“There has been some debate around contact electrification – namely, whether the charge transfer occurs through electrons or ions and why the charges retain on the surface without a quick dissipation,” Wang said.

It’s been eight years since Wang’s team first published research on triboelectric nanogenerators, which employ materials that create an electric charge when in motion and could be designed to harvest energy from a variety of sources such as wind, ocean currents or sound vibrations.

“Previously we just used trial and error to maximize this effect,” Wang said. “But with this new information, we can design materials that have better performance for power conversion.”

The researchers developed a method using a nanoscale triboelectric nanogenerator – composed of layers either of titanium and aluminum oxide or titanium and silicone dioxide – to help quantify the amount of charge accumulating on surfaces during moments of friction.

The method was capable of tracking the accumulated charges in real time and worked over a wide range of temperatures, including very high ones. The data from the study indicated that the characteristics of the triboelectric effect, namely, how electrons flowed across barriers, were consistent with the electron thermionic emission theory.

By designing triboelectric nanogenerators that could withstanding testing at high temperatures, the researchers also found that temperature played a major role in the triboelectric effect.

“We never realized it was a temperature dependent phenomenon,” Wang said. “But we found that when the temperature reaches about 300 Celsius, the triboelectric transfer almost disappears.”

The researchers tested the ability for surfaces to maintain a charge at temperatures ranging from about 80 degrees Celsius to 300 degrees Celsius. Based on their data, the researchers proposed a mechanism for explaining the physics process in triboelectrification effect.

“As the temperature rises, the energy fluctuations of electrons become larger and larger,” the researchers wrote. “Thus, it is easier for electrons to hop out of the potential well, and they either go back to the material where they came from or emit into air.”

This work was supported by the Hightower Chair Foundation, the National Key R & D Project from the Minister of Science and Technology of China, the National Natural Science Foundation of China and the Six Talent Peaks Project in Jiangsu Province, China. Any conclusions or recommendations are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the sponsoring organizations.

CITATION: Cheng Xu, Yunlong Zi, Aurelia Chi Wang, Haiyang Zou, Yejing Dai, Xu He, Peihong Wang, Yi-Cheng Wang, Peizhong Feng, Dawei Li, and Zhong Lin Wang, “On the Electron-Transfer Mechanism in the Contact-Electrification Effect,” (Advanced Materials, March, 2018).

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Engineering Yeast Tolerance to a Promising Biomass Deconstruction Solvent

Chemical genomic-guided engineering of gamma-valerolactone-tolerant yeast.

Beyond the WIMP: Unique Crystals Could Expand the Search for Dark Matter

A new particle detector design proposed at the U.S. Department of Energy's Berkeley Lab could greatly broaden the search for dark matter - which makes up 85 percent of the total mass of the universe yet we don't know what it's made of - into an unexplored realm.

20 Percent of Americans Responsible for Almost Half of US Food-Related Greenhouse Gas Emissions

On any given day, 20 percent of Americans account for nearly half of U.S. diet-related greenhouse gas emissions, and high levels of beef consumption are largely responsible, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Michigan and Tulane University.

Saplings Survive Droughts via Storage

Certain species of trees retain stored water, limit root growth to survive three months without water.

Study Reveals New Insights into How Hybrid Perovskite Solar Cells Work

Scientists have gained new insights into a fundamental mystery about hybrid perovskites, low-cost materials that could enhance or even replace conventional solar cells made of silicon.

Want to Clean Up the Environment? Make Credit Easier to Get.

Research by Berkeley Haas Prof. Ross Levine, the Willis H. Booth Chair in Banking and Finance, is the first to show that when lending conditions ease, businesses invest more in projects to cut pollution.

A Reference Catalog for the Rumen Microbiome

In Nature Biotechnology, an international team including JGI scientists presents a reference catalog of rumen microbial genomes and isolates, one of the largest targeted cultivation and sequencing projects to date.

Scientists Have a New Way to Gauge the Growth of Nanowires

n a new study, researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne and Brookhaven National Laboratories observed the formation of two kinds of defects in individual nanowires, which are smaller in diameter than a human hair.

A Future Colorfully Lit by Mystifying Physics of Paint-On Semiconductors

It defies conventional wisdom about semiconductors. It's baffling that it even works. It eludes physics models that try to explain it. This newly tested class of light-emitting semiconductors is so easy to produce from solution that it could be painted onto surfaces to light up our future in myriad colors shining from affordable lasers, LEDs, and even window glass.

Liquid-to-Glass Transition Process Gains Clarity

Paul Voyles, the Beckwith-Bascom Professor in materials science and engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and collaborators in Madison and at Yale University have made significant experimental strides in understanding how, when and where the constantly moving atoms in molten metal "lock" into place as the material transitions from liquid to solid glass.

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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Professor Jian Shi Receives Air Force Young Investigator Research Program Award

Jian Shi, assistant professor of materials science and engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, has won a Young Investigator Research Program (YIP) award from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR). Shi will use the three-year, $450,000 grant to pursue fundamental research on nanoscale complex materials that could lead to the development of next-generation resilient and high-performance energy conversion and sensing technologies.

Kerstin Kleese van Dam Receives 32nd Town of Brookhaven Annual Women's Recognition Award for Science

The award recognizes the contributions Kleese van Dam--director of Brookhaven Lab's Computational Science Initiative since 2015--has made to scientific computing and data management over the past three decades.

Jefferson Lab Announces New Accelerator Science Leader

The Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility has announced that Andrei Seryi will become its new associate director for accelerator operations, research and development in June.

First Plasma for New Machine to Study Puzzling Process That Occurs Throughout the Universe

Announcement describes completion of construction of FLARE, a powerful new machine to study magnetic reconnection.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Professor Jian Sun Receives Power Electronics Achievement Award

Jian Sun, professor of electrical, computer, and systems engineering and director the New York State Center for Future Energy Systems at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, received the 2017 R. David Middlebrook Outstanding Achievement Award from the IEEE Power Electronics Society (PELS). He was recognized for "contributions to modeling and control of power electronic converters and systems."

FGC Plasma Solutions Wins Top NASA Innovation Award

Argonne Chain Reaction Innovator Felipe Gomez del Campo has received the 2018 NASA iTech award for X-Factor Innovation.

Sandia Researcher Jacqueline Chen Elected to National Academy of Engineering

LIVERMORE, Calif. -- Jacqueline Chen, a distinguished member of the technical staff at Sandia National Laboratories, has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering. Chen is among the 99 new members from around the globe in the 2018 class.Election to the National Academy of Engineering is the highest professional distinction for an engineer in the United States.

PNNL Helps Form International Energy Storage Organization

News Release DALIAN, China -- Energy storage allows power operators across the nation to balance electricity supply and demand instantaneously, affording ratepayers a more resilient power supply.Now the focus on energy storage is global. In January, energy storage experts at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory joined forces with their counterparts around the world to forge the International Coalition for Energy Storage and Innovation, or ICESI.

University Partnership to Help Nevada Scientists Commercialize Discovery

UNLV's Office of Technology Transfer and the Desert Research are partnering to help faculty and students leverage each other's talent and resources to transform inventionsĀ into new products and services.

DOE Seeks Industry Partners for HPC Research on Materials in Applied Energy Technologies

The Department of Energy (DOE) today announced a funding opportunity totaling $3 million to support projects between U.S. industry and DOE national laboratories related to improving materials in severe or complex environments through the new High Performance Computing for Materials in Applied Energy Technologies (HPC4Mtls) Program.

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Engineering Yeast Tolerance to a Promising Biomass Deconstruction Solvent

Chemical genomic-guided engineering of gamma-valerolactone-tolerant yeast.

Saplings Survive Droughts via Storage

Certain species of trees retain stored water, limit root growth to survive three months without water.

Unlocking On-Package Memory's Effects on High-Performance Computing's Scientific Kernels

Intuitive visual analytical model better explains complex architectural scenarios and offers general design principles.

Data Dive: How Microbes Handle Poor Nutrition in Tropical Soil

High-performance computing reveals the relationship between DNA and phosphorous uptake.

The Secret Lives of Cells

Supercomputer simulations predict how E. coli adapts to environmental stresses.

It's Not Part of the Problem, but Part of the Solution

Americium(III) is selectively and efficiently separated from europium(III) by an extractant in an ionic liquid.

Buckyball Marries Graphene

Electronic and structure richness arise from the merger of semiconducting molecules of carbon buckyballs and 2-D graphene.

Atomic Movies Explain Why Perovskite Solar Cells Are More Efficient

Tracking atoms is crucial to improving the efficiency of next-generation perovskite solar cells.

Catalysts: High Performance Lies on the Edge

Iron may be more valuable than platinum. Sometimes.

Discovery of a New Microbe that Produces Methane in Oxygenated Soils

Global models may be underestimating net wetland methane emissions.


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Ivy League Graduate, Writer and Activist with Dyslexia Visits CSUCI to Reframe the Concept of Learning Disabilities

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Photographer Adam Nadel Selected as Fermilab's New Artist-in-Residence for 2018

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Great Neck South High School Wins Regional Science Bowl at Brookhaven Lab

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