"Crumpled" Material Leads to a Battery-Free Haptic Touch Sensors Powered by Static Electricity

Special material boosts triboelectric generation by over 40 percent, giving it enough oomph to drive a battery-free haptic touch sensor.

A team of researchers at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST), in partnership with various universities, have shown off a compact, wearable haptic touch sensor powered by triboelectricity — deliberate static electricity generation, in effect.

Triboelectric generators, which produce electricity through contact between different materials, are a great source of battery-free power - but typically too bulky for wearable use. The KIST team's breakthrough: Enhancing the efficiency of the triboelectric effect by over 40 percent, creating a crumple-structure molybdenum disulphide material which can power wearable haptic touch sensors.

"Controlling the internal stress of the semiconductor material is a useful technique in the semiconductor industry, but this was the first time that a material synthesis technique involving synthesis of a two-dimensional semiconductor material and application of internal stress at the same time was implemented," claims KIST's Dr. Seoung-Ki Lee. "It presents a way to increase the triboelectricity generation efficiency by combining the material with a polymer, and it will serve as a catalyst for the development of next-generation functional materials based on two-dimensional substances."

The wrinkled surface of the material boosts the triboelectric generation efficiency by over 40 percent, the researchers found — enough for it to power a prototype lightweight, flexible touch sensor which requires no external power to operate.

The team's work has been published under closed-access terms in the journal Nano Energy.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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