Scientists have now developed wooden flooring that harvests electricity from your footsteps. Just when you thought you'd seen it all.
It works because of a device called a nanogenerator, which sandwiches two pieces of wood between electrodes. Due to a phenomenon called the triboelectric effect, the wood pieces get electrically charged due to contact and separation - or in this case, when someone walks on them.
But wood does not naturally gain or lose electrons, which is required for this technology to work. To make it possible, the team of Swiss researchers explained in a Matter article that they coated one piece of wood with silicone, which rapidly gains electrons.
The team then embedded the other piece of wood with metal ions and nanocrystals, which enables it to quickly shed electrons.
The result? Flooring that powered a lightbulb when an adult walked on it.
Using a wood floor prototype with a surface area slightly smaller than an A4 piece of paper produced enough energy to drive household LED lamps and small electronic devices such as calculators, the researchers said.
Researchers said the technology is merely proof-of-concept and not yet ready for widespread use, however. A continuous supply of motion would be required, making it difficult to provide lasting power. Creating adequate power would also require many nanogenerators.
We will see if it someday can be scaled up.
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