How MIT researchers found a new electricity source. By accident.
Sometimes the most amazing discoveries are those that occur completely by accident. Which is very much the case of a new energy source that has been discovered by a team from MIT in the form of a polymer film. How could a polymer film generate electricity? That’s about where the unexpected part begins.
How does it work?
The polymer film absorbs small amounts evaporated moisture from the air and gradually begins to curl as a result. The continuous curling process actually generates energy that can be harnessed and used for use in small applications and devices. A ground breaking result that has nothing to do with the researchers’ original goal of developing a polymeric electrode to be used in medical applications. But nonetheless it is a discovery that has both the authors of the study as well as the scientific community -buzzing.
By far the coolest potential real world application for a polymer film that can generate electricity: the possibility of sweat powering devices. That’s right – Sweat Energy. As the evaporated sweat is absorbed by the film, the film – in turn- powers whatever personal media device you are carrying. Never mind charging up your mp3 player before you go out on that run, you run would now power your mp3 player!
While there are still many details to further research and experiment with, it seems the researchers have stumbled upon something with tremendous promise. One member of the team even went so far as to say that in the future, this might make it possible to generate energy just by being in contact with a large body of water like a lake or an ocean. Even if the mechanics of how that would work are still far from a reality, the initial spark looks promising.
Source: Physics World
References: Ma, M., Guo, L., Anderson, D., & Langer, R. (2013). Bio-Inspired Polymer Composite Actuator and Generator Driven by Water Gradients Science, 339 (6116), 186-189 DOI: 10.1126/science.1230262