Your Phone's Next Power Supply? Your Hand

There’s nothing more annoying than being out of the house for the day, only to have your phone display the dreaded low battery symbol. You have to scramble to find someone with a power cord and then sit patiently while the battery icon slowly turns from red to green again. But what if we didn’t have to rely on those annoying power chargers anymore?

According to Science Daily, the future of phone charging might lie in the palm of your hand. Literally. A research project between the University at Buffalo and Institute of Semiconductors (IoP) at Chinese Academy of Science (CAS) has led to the creation of a small, metallic tab that can provide energy for devices. The triboelectric nanogenerator, when attached to the body, “is capable of generating electricity from bending a finger and other simple movements.” Think of static electricity being put to good use — that is a simple way of looking at the innovation.

The tab is made of two thin layers of gold, with polydimethylsiloxane, or PDMS (a thin layer of polymer) in between. For it to work, “one layer of gold is stretched, causing it to crumple upon release and create what looks like a miniature mountain range. When that force is reapplied, for example from a finger bending, the motion leads to friction between the gold layers and PDMS.” This movement results in electrons flowing back and forth. The more movement, the more energy results.

The researchers are working on a battery that will be able to store the energy generated by the tab. Eventually, the hope is that the tabs will be able to not only help charge mobile phones, but will be able to power other electronic devices as well.