Think about how much an average person walks in a lifetime. Now, imagine that each step a person takes actually produces energy – as in, real power that can be harnessed and used to generate electricity.
Well, with the new innovative developments coming from Georgia Tech, that could be a reality in the coming years.
The researchers there are creating materials that produce and harvest electrostatic energy – thin sheets of plastic that require nothing more than a simple footfall to become electrically charged.
According to Z.L. Wang, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, “We invented the world’s first nano-generator. At the time [of its original creation] it was very, very tiny, and the output power was… almost useless. But we didn’t give up on the dream. The important thing is that you have to chase the dream.”
And it’s a good thing he did…
Since the project began, they’ve magnified the power output of the nano-generators exponentially. More specifically, they’ve boosted the power output by a factor of 100,000. Now, a single square meter sheet generates 400 watts of power.
That might not be impressive by itself. But if a city were to integrate the technology into future sidewalks and roads, pedestrians and vehicles could end up supplying much of its power needs.
Indeed, in coastal regions of the United States alone, Wang and his team calculate that “31 terra watts of electricity can be generated. [That’s two times today’s] world energy consumption.”
Of course, to convince cities that the technology works, he needs to prove that the technology can work on a smaller scale. So he’s taking aim at the mobile space, and creating a way to charge a smartphone just by rubbing your hands on the device.
As Wang says, “We need to have a breakthrough point, a niche application and this is the way to solve that problem.”