Researchers invent a new device to harness the power of waves

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Harnessing the immense power of the oceans could satiate all global electricity needs. Attempts in this direction have been going on for years and some technologies are on the way to being deployed on a large scale. But the more technology we have, the better.

In a study published in the journal A land, researchers are now showing a new way to generate electricity from ocean waves. The snake-like device is made up of generators that rely on static electricity to generate power as they float and ripple on the surface of water.

The oceans are the greatest source of renewable energy on earth. Many different prototypes for harnessing ocean waves, tides and currents have been developed over the years. Some float on the surface, others are overwhelmed just below, while still others are tethered to the bottom of the ocean.

But these wave energy technologies are more expensive than wind and solar, and have yet to prove themselves on a large scale over a long period of time. Most of them use wave action to push magnets through the coils, which is bulky, expensive, and inefficient.

The team from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing has built a device that generates energy by tapping into the build-up of charge when two different surfaces rub against each other. This phenomenon, called the triboelectric effect, is the cause of static electricity. Researchers have used it to make coatings for solar cells that generate electricity when they rain Where snow hit them.

The new idea of ​​using triboelectric generators for wave energy comes from Zhong Lin Wang, who made the first triboelectric generator ten years ago. These generators are small and have generally been offered to power sensors, portable electronics, and small gadgets. But connecting thousands of generators together should produce enough power for larger uses. Several designs have been proposed for this.

In the new paper, Wang and his colleagues propose a design that generates twice as much energy per unit volume as previously reported systems. It consists of a spring-like coil inside a cylinder. As the cylinder rolls back and forth on the waves, the different parts of the spiral touch and separate, generating current.

Lab tests showed the device produced up to 347 watts of power per cubic meter, 30 times more than other triboelectric designs for harvesting wave energy.

Spool wear due to friction is a problem that has yet to be solved. Larger real-world tests will show if the device can withstand the fury of the ocean.

Source: Wei Yuan et al. Anaconda-shaped spiral multilayer triboelectric nanogenerators with ultra-high spatial efficiency for wave energy harvesting. A land2022.

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