TriboElectricity, The Green Energy Source

Researchers from Clemson’s Nanomaterials Institute (CNI) are one step closer to wirelessly powering the world using triboelectricity, a green energy source. In March 2017, a group of physicists at CNI invented the ultra-simple triboelectric nanogenerator or U-TENG, a small device made of plastic and tape that generates electricity from motion and vibrations. When the two materials are brought together — through such actions as clapping the hands or tapping feet — they generate voltage that is detected by a wired, external circuit. Electrical energy, by way of the circuit, is then stored in a capacitor or a battery until it’s needed.

Nine months later, in a paper published in the journal Advanced Energy Materials, the researchers reported that they had created a wireless TENG, called the W-TENG, which greatly expands the applications of the technology. The W-TENG was engineered under the same premise as the U-TENG using materials that are so opposite in their affinity for electrons that they generate a voltage when brought in contact with each other.

In the W-TENG, plastic was swapped for a multipart fiber made of graphene — a single layer of graphite, or pencil lead — and a biodegradable polymer known as polylactic acid (PLA). PLA on its own is great for separating positive and negative charges, but not so great at conducting electricity, which is why the researchers paired it with graphene. Kapton tape, the electron-grabbing material of the U-TENG, was replaced with Teflon, a compound known for coating nonstick cooking pans.

After assembling the graphene-PLA fiber, the researchers pulled it into a 3-D printer and the W-TENG was born. The end result is a device that generates a maximum of 3,000 volts — enough to power 25 standard electrical outlets or, on a grander scale, smart-tinted windows or a liquid crystal display (LCD) monitor. Because the voltage is so high, the W-TENG generates an electric field around itself that can be sensed wirelessly. Its electrical energy, too, can be stored wirelessly in capacitors and batteries.

It cannot only give you energy, but you can use the electric field also as an actuated remote. For example, you can tap the W-TENG and use its electric field as a ‘button’ to open your garage door, or you could activate a security system — all without a battery, passively and wirelessly,” said Sai Sunil Mallineni, the first author of the study and a Ph.D. student in physics and astronomy.


Drones Re-Charging Wireless While Airborne

Scientists have demonstrated a highly efficient method for wirelessly transferring power to a drone while it is flying. The breakthrough could in theory allow flying drones to stay airborne indefinitely by simply hovering over a ground support vehicle to recharge opening up new potential industrial applications.

The technology uses inductive coupling, a concept initially demonstrated by inventor Nikola Tesla over 100 years ago. Two copper coils are tuned into one another, using electronics, which enables the wireless exchange of power at a certain frequency. Scientists have been experimenting with this technology for decades, but have not been able to wirelessly power flying technology.


Now, scientists from Imperial College London (ICL) have removed the battery from an off-the-shelf mini-drone and demonstrated that they can wirelessly transfer power to it via inductive coupling. They believe their demonstration is the first to show how this wireless charging method can be efficiently done with a flying object like a drone, potentially paving the way for wider use of the technology.

To demonstrate their approach the researchers bought an off-the-shelf quadcopter drone, around 12 centimetres in diameter, and altered its electronics and removed its battery. They made a copper foil ring, which is a receiving antennae that encircles the drone’s casing. On the ground, a transmitter device made out of a circuit board is connected to electronics and a power source, creating a magnetic field.

The drone’s electronics are tuned or calibrated at the frequency of the magnetic field. When it flies into the magnetic field an alternating current (AC) voltage is induced in the receiving antenna and the drone’s electronics convert it efficiently into a direct current (DC) voltage to power it.


Solar-powered Wireless Charging Station For Electric Bikes

Members of the Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in Netherlands have presented the first solar-powered wireless charging station for electric bikes.


This is a major step forward in terms of sustainable transport and accelerating the energy transition because the combination of solar energy, wireless charging and electric bikes is unique. In this charging station, we charge the DC battery in the bike with the solar energy from the eight solar panels via the DC supply. The charging station can also store 10 kWh of solar energy in the batteries, enabling it to function independently“, sayd  Pavol Bauer, who leads the Direct Current (DC) Systems, Energy Conversion & Storage group at the University.

The charging station is ready for immediate use: it can accommodate four electric bikesan electric scooter and a research bike that are charged wirelessly. The charging station also serves as a living lab, a testbed for further research. In the last two years, ten students have graduated on the strength of their work on the project. For example, a student of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science designed a DC system and created a system to enable the bike to be charged wirelessly, another calculated and determined the output and position of the solar panels, and an Industrial Design Engineering student was responsible for designing the charging station.

The electric research bike is equipped with a dual stand and a small coil. At the charging station, the bike can be parked on the stand on a magnetic tile. The bike is charged directly via the coil. The user can monitor the charging status on a built-in screen on the charging station or on his or her mobile phone. Wireless charging takes around the same time as the ‘conventional‘ charging of electric bikes.

It is anticipated that the eight panels will generate sufficient energy to power the electric bikes and the scooter in winter. In summer, any excess power will be fed to the electricity grid. Pavol Bauer’s group now plans to work on the further development of wireless charging for various bikes and scooters. The ultimate aim is for the charging station to consist solely of several tiles used as a solar panel, which can be cycled on, known as solar roads. Integrating solar cells and the wireless charging system makes an expensive system unnecessary.


Brain Implant Moves Paralyzed Arm

This is Ian Burkhart of Ohio. His hands and legs were permanently paralyzed in a diving accident when he was 19 years old. But now with the help of a new, breakthrough computer chip implanted in his brain – the, now, 24-year-old is playing guitar hero.

brain implant helps paralized limbsCLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO
When we first hooked everything up, you know for the first time being able to move my hand, it was a big shock because you know it was something that I have not moved in three and half years at that point, now it’s more of something where I expect it to move“,  says  Ian Burkhat, the quadriplegic patient at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.  The small pea-sized computer chip relays signals from Burkhart’s brain through 130 electrodes to his forearm, allowing his mind guide his hands and fingers, bypassing his damaged spinal cord. On Wednesday, scientists and neurosurgeons describing this quadriplegic’s accomplishments as a milestone in the evolution of brain-computer interface technology.

This really provides hope, we believe, for many patients in the future as this technology evolves and matures“, comments Doctor Ali Rezai, from the Ohio State’s Center for NeuroModulation. Burkhart says the progress is moving along faster than he imagined: “The biggest dream would be to get full function of my hand back, both my hands, because that would allow you to be much more independent, not to have to rely on people for simple day to day tasks that you take for granted.”

Scientists are working to improve the technology, which for now can only be used in the laboratory, and move toward a wireless system bringing Burkhart another step closer to his dream.


2016: The End Of Cables, A Completely Wireless PC

Intel‘s Skylake, which is the company’s post-Broadwell next-generation platform, will allow the PC maker to eliminate the need for any cables by 2016. Kirk Skaugen, Intel senior Vice-President , has demonstrated at Taipei’s Computex show wireless capabilities for docking, charging and display, which are the last functions for the PC that still require cables. A completely wireless PC has long been desired, but the idea has faced much difficulty because of the need for connecting cables by PC peripherals, along with the system’s need for power.

Intel is looking to use WiGig, a new protocol that can deliver speeds of up to 7 Gbps, to provide short-range docking for display and connectivity The WiGig instantly connects screens and other peripherals when a tablet or laptop appears within the device’s range, and also instantly disconnects as the tablet or laptop is moved away. Users can project what’s on their computer screen to other computer screens wirelessly.

For power, on the other hand, Intel is looking at using Rezence, which Skaugen demonstrated. Rezence is a charging technology that uses magnetic resonance (The phenomenon of absorption of certain frequencies of radio and microwave radiation by atoms placed in a magnetic field. The pattern of absorption reveals molecular structure). The technology is promoted by Intel-backed group Alliance 4 Wireless Power. It can be placed underneath the surface of a table, with the system’s magnetic resonance able to charge devices through even 2 inches of wood. Also, unlike inductive chargers that can only charge one device at a time, magnetic resonance chargers can charge several devices all at once.

The system was also demonstrated by Skaugen at Computex, using a table installed with Rezence to charge a mobile phone, a headset, a laptop and a tablet simultaneously. Skaugen also announced new member companies of the A4WP, which includes Lenovo, Fujitsu, Dell, Panasonic and Logitech, to work with already partners Toshiba and Asus.

Let’s remind that the company Apple has dabbled into magnetic resonance charging technology in the past, filing a patent for the technology.


Plasmonics: Using Light In Metals To Carry Information

A recently discovered technology called plasmonics marries the best aspects of optical and electronic data transfer. By crowding light into metal structures with dimensions far smaller than its wavelength, data can be transmitted at much higher frequencies such as terahertz frequencies, which lie between microwaves and infrared light on the spectrum of electromagnetic radiation that also includes everything from X-rays to visible light to gamma rays. Metals such as silver and gold are particularly promising plasmonic materials because they enhance this crowding effect.

Using an inexpensive inkjet printer, University of Utah electrical engineers produced microscopic structures that use light in metals to carry information. This new technique, which controls electrical conductivity within such microstructures, could be used to rapidly fabricate superfast components in electronic devices, make wireless technology faster or print magnetic materials.

High-speed Internet and other data-transfer techniques rely on light transported through optical fibers with very high bandwidth, which is a measure of how fast data can be transferred. Shrinking these fibers allows more data to be packed into less space, but there’s a catch: optical fibers hit a limit on how much data they can carry as light is squeezed into smaller and smaller spaces. In contrast, electronic circuits can be fashioned at much smaller sizes on silicon wafers. However, electronic data transfer operates at frequencies with much lower bandwidth, reducing the amount of data that can be carried.

Very little well-developed technology exists to create terahertz plasmonic devices, which have the potential to make wireless devices such as Bluetooth – which operates at 2.4 gigahertz frequency – 1,000 times faster than they are today,” says Ajay Nahata, a University of Utah professor of electrical and computer engineering and senior author of the new study.

The study has been published online in the journal Advanced Optical Materials.