It isn’t Galt’s Motor from Atlas Shrugged, the fictional generator that pulls unlimited amounts of static electricity from the air. Still, an innovative new use of available materials shows promise in converting static electricity into power for small devices.

Katherine Bourzac, writing for the MIT Technology Review, explains the work led by Georgia Tech’s Zhong Lin Wang:

The Georgia Tech researchers demonstrated that [a] static charge phenomenon, called the triboelectric effect, can be harnessed to produce power using a type of plastic, polyethylene terephthalate, and a metal. When thin films of these materials come into contact with one another, they become charged. And when the two films are flexed, a current flows between them, which can be harnessed to charge a battery. When the two surfaces are patterned with nanoscale structures, their surface area is much greater, and so is the friction between the materials—and the power they can produce.

This technology provides enough power for such things as pacemakers, LEDs, and small batteries for cell phones and other devices. The advance is a wonderful example of how devotion to reason and science improves human life.

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Creative Commons Image: Ken Bosma

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