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Research: Collect wind power as you move

Researchers in China have designed a tiny device that can scavenge wind energy from the breeze you make when you walk or run

Published in Fit Tech 2021 issue 1

Most of the wind available on land is too gentle to push commercial wind turbine blades, but now researchers in China have designed a kind of “tiny wind turbine” that can scavenge wind energy from breezes as little as those created by a brisk walk. The method, presented in the journal Cell Reports Physical Science, is a low-cost and efficient way of collecting light breezes as a micro-energy source.

The new device is not technically a turbine. It is a nanogenerator made of two plastic strips in a tube that flutter or clap together when there is airflow. Like rubbing a balloon to your hair, the two plastics become electrically charged after being separated from contact, a phenomenon called the triboelectric effect. But instead of making your hair stand up like Einstein’s, the electricity generated by the two plastic strips is captured and stored.

“You can collect all the breeze in your everyday life,” says senior author Ya Yang of Beijing Institute of Nanoenergy and Nanosystems, Chinese Academy of Sciences. “We once placed our nanogenerator on a person’s arm, and a swinging arm’s airflow was enough to generate power.”

Allows sweat to evaporate
A breeze as gentle as 1.6 m/s (3.6 mph) was enough to power the triboelectric nanogenerator designed by Yang and his colleagues. The nanogenerator performs at its best when wind velocity is between 4 to 8 m/s (8.9 to 17.9 mph), a speed that allows the two plastic strips to flutter in sync. The device also has a high wind-to-energy conversion efficiency of 3.23 per cent, a value that exceeds previously reported performances on wind energy scavenging. Currently, the research team’s device can power up 100 LED lights and temperature sensors.

“Our intention isn’t to replace existing wind power generation technology. Our goal is to solve the issues that the traditional wind turbines can’t solve,” says Yang. “Unlike wind turbines that use coils and magnets, where the costs are fixed, we can pick and choose low-cost materials for our device. Our device can also be safely applied to nature reserves or cities because it doesn’t have the rotating structures.”

Big goal, small device
In the past, Yang and his colleagues have designed a nanogenerator as small as a coin, but he wants to make it even tinier and more compact with higher efficiency. In the future, Yang and his colleagues would like to combine the device to small electronic devices such as phones, to provide sustainable electric power.

• For more research using triboelectric nanogenerator technology, see Fit Tech Issue 2 2020: Create your own energy

Sign up here to get Fit Tech's weekly ezine and every issue of Fit Tech magazine free on digital.
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features

Research: Collect wind power as you move

Researchers in China have designed a tiny device that can scavenge wind energy from the breeze you make when you walk or run

Published in Fit Tech 2021 issue 1

Most of the wind available on land is too gentle to push commercial wind turbine blades, but now researchers in China have designed a kind of “tiny wind turbine” that can scavenge wind energy from breezes as little as those created by a brisk walk. The method, presented in the journal Cell Reports Physical Science, is a low-cost and efficient way of collecting light breezes as a micro-energy source.

The new device is not technically a turbine. It is a nanogenerator made of two plastic strips in a tube that flutter or clap together when there is airflow. Like rubbing a balloon to your hair, the two plastics become electrically charged after being separated from contact, a phenomenon called the triboelectric effect. But instead of making your hair stand up like Einstein’s, the electricity generated by the two plastic strips is captured and stored.

“You can collect all the breeze in your everyday life,” says senior author Ya Yang of Beijing Institute of Nanoenergy and Nanosystems, Chinese Academy of Sciences. “We once placed our nanogenerator on a person’s arm, and a swinging arm’s airflow was enough to generate power.”

Allows sweat to evaporate
A breeze as gentle as 1.6 m/s (3.6 mph) was enough to power the triboelectric nanogenerator designed by Yang and his colleagues. The nanogenerator performs at its best when wind velocity is between 4 to 8 m/s (8.9 to 17.9 mph), a speed that allows the two plastic strips to flutter in sync. The device also has a high wind-to-energy conversion efficiency of 3.23 per cent, a value that exceeds previously reported performances on wind energy scavenging. Currently, the research team’s device can power up 100 LED lights and temperature sensors.

“Our intention isn’t to replace existing wind power generation technology. Our goal is to solve the issues that the traditional wind turbines can’t solve,” says Yang. “Unlike wind turbines that use coils and magnets, where the costs are fixed, we can pick and choose low-cost materials for our device. Our device can also be safely applied to nature reserves or cities because it doesn’t have the rotating structures.”

Big goal, small device
In the past, Yang and his colleagues have designed a nanogenerator as small as a coin, but he wants to make it even tinier and more compact with higher efficiency. In the future, Yang and his colleagues would like to combine the device to small electronic devices such as phones, to provide sustainable electric power.

• For more research using triboelectric nanogenerator technology, see Fit Tech Issue 2 2020: Create your own energy

Sign up here to get Fit Tech's weekly ezine and every issue of Fit Tech magazine free on digital.
More features

Digital retention top performers

Three digital fitness platforms tell Fit Tech how they work to achieve higher levels of customer retention
interview

Blurring the lines

Les Mills has launched a suite of digital solutions to help gyms future-proof by expanding their reach in the booming online fitness space, while complementing their live offerings. Steph Eaves talks to Les Mills International’s CMO Anna Henwood to find out more
interview

Rodrigo Jesus, Salus Optima

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people

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President, CoachMePlus
Fitness apps are designed to train clients, without a trainer on the other side. We give coaches a tool for connection

Sky x Fiit

Fiit has secured a deal with TV giant Sky, to make its virtual workout platform available through the subscription-based Sky Q service. With 20 per cent of Fiit users now accessing the app through Sky, Fit Tech speaks to Fraser Stirling and Daniel Shellard to find out more

Virtual wellbeing check

Feelings of pressure, isolation and performance anxiety are commonly experienced by athletes, however it isn’t always easy for clubs to identify those who are struggling. Richard Lucas, founder of GoVox, explains how technology can help

Fit Tech Leadership Report

Fit tech is a growing, competitive sector. Executive search firm, Stronger Talent, recently analysed the backgrounds of more than 300 fit tech executives to provide insights into recruiting strategies, as Pete Leibman explains
interview

Robotic muscles

We identified the need to step beyond the current approaches to muscle weakness, and move instead to placing robotic muscles exactly where they’re needed – inside the body
people

Devi Mahadevia

Facebook director of sports and fitness partnerships
With Facebook paid online events, publishers can charge viewers to attend a video livestream on their Facebook pages or a third party video service
Editor's letter

Big (fit) tech

We’re entering the age of the wellness mega-corp, with the ultimate goal for investors being to dominate health and wellness markets in every channel. Prepare to expect the unexpected in this convergence of health, fitness and wellness

Collect wind power as you move

Researchers in China have designed a tiny device that can scavenge wind energy from the breeze you make when you walk or run

Funxtion: A brand new app

FunXtion and GoodLife Fitness are collaborating to help Canadians stay fit in the gym and at home
HID Global
HID Global