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Nanogenerator harvests energy from rolling tires

A new nanogenerator that harvests power from rolling tires has been developed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA

by Rachel Evans

 

A group of engineers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the USA and a collaborator from China have developed a nanogenerator that harvests energy from a car’s rolling tire friction. This could enable auto manufacturers to gain greater efficiency out of their vehicles by using the recovered energy to charge the car’s battery.

Xudong Wang, an associate professor of materials science and engineering at UW-Madison, and his PhD student Yanchao Mao have been working on this device for approximately a year.

The nanogenerator relies on the triboelectric effect to harness energy from the changing electric potential between the pavement and a vehicle’s wheels. The triboelectric effect is the electric charge that results from the contact or rubbing together of two dissimilar objects. The nanogenerator takes advantage of energy that is usually lost due to friction.

“The friction between the tire and the ground consumes about 10% of a vehicle’s fuel. That energy is wasted, so if we can convert it, it could give us very good improvement in fuel efficiency,” Wang explains.

The nanogenerator relies on an electrode integrated into a segment of the tire. When this part of the tire surface comes into contact with the ground, the friction between those two surfaces ultimately produces an electrical charge - a type of contact electrification known as the triboelectric effect.

During initial trials, Wang and his colleagues used a toy car with LED lights to demonstrate the concept. They attached an electrode to the wheels of the car, and as it rolled across the ground, the LED lights flashed on and off. The movement of electrons caused by friction was able to generate enough energy to power the lights.

“The nanogenerator was installed on the surface of the tire in the prototype device, however the ultimate design is to integrate it inside the tire, so that it won’t wear out,” Wang notes.

The researchers also determined that the amount of energy harnessed is directly related to the weight of a car, as well as its speed. According to Wang, the technology could be easily scaled up and may only require an additional fabrication step in tire manufacturing.

“Right now I am still working on the design of how to effectively realize this requirement,” he says. “We are also testing the system on a real car and it has shown a much higher energy output, but still more work needs to be done to make the output more regular and quantitative. The next key step will be to come up with a smart design to integrate the nanogenerator inside a real tire and test it.”

August 12, 2015

 

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