Hardwood floors that generate enough energy from footsteps to light up a home » El Horticultor

Energy is a necessity for modern human life, and people are consuming more and more energy to carry out their activities in daily life. The energy efficiency of buildings could be greatly improved by allowing building materials to directly convert the mechanical energy of their occupants into useful electricity.

In a potential breakthrough in energy efficiency for interior design, researchers at ETH Zurich have shown that wooden floors can collect enough energy simply by walking on them to power LED light bulbs and small electronic devices.

Researchers have developed wooden triboelectric nanogenerators that generate electricity from our footsteps. The team turned wood into a nanogenerator by sandwiching two pieces of functionalized wood between electrodes. They also improved the wood used in their nanogenerator with a combination of a silicone coating and embedded nanocrystals.

It is footsteps that cause the triboelectric effect, causing pieces of wood to become electrically charged through periodic contact and separation when tied with straps. During the triboelectric effect, electrons can be transferred from one object to another, generating electricity.

Hardwood floors that generate enough energy from footsteps to light the house

However, there is a problem with making a wooden nanogenerator. “Wood is fundamentally three-neutral,” says lead author Guido Panzarasa. “That means wood doesn’t really tend to gain or lose electrons. “This limits the material’s ability to generate electricity,” so the challenge is to make wood capable of attracting and losing electrons. “

To overcome this problem, the team coated one piece of wood with silicone which easily gains electrons on contact, and incorporated metal ions and organic molecules in the other piece which give it a greater tendency to lose electrons. . The team tested this treatment on different wood species carved in different directions and found that a triboelectric nanogenerator made from radially cut spruce worked best. The treatments increased the performance of the triboelectric nanogenerator, produces 80 times more electricity than natural wood and provided stable output for up to 1500 cycles.

According to the researchers, the prototype wooden floor with an area slightly smaller than a sheet of paper could generate enough energy to power household LED lamps and small electronic devices like calculators.

“Our approach was to demonstrate the possibility of modifying wood with relatively environmentally friendly processes to make it triboelectric,” says Panzarasa. “Spruce is cheap and available and has favorable mechanical properties. The functionalization approach is quite simple and can be industrially scalable. It’s just a matter of engineering. “

In addition to being efficient, durable and scalable, the newly developed nanogenerator also retains the characteristics that make wood useful for interior design. Next, the team plans to further optimize the nanogenerator with chemical coatings that are more environmentally friendly and easier to implement.

“Although we initially focused on basic research, the research we do should eventually lead to real-world applications,” says Panzarasa. “The ultimate goal is to understand the potentials of wood beyond those already known and to enable wood with new properties for future sustainable smart buildings. “

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