A device that generates electricity through contact and friction might one day be used to harvest the energy from human motion to charge portable electronics.

Credit: Guang Zhu/Zhong Lin Wang/Beijing Inst. Nanoenergy Nanosystems/Georgia Tech

Zhong Lin Wang and his colleagues at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta designed a compact, light-weight generator (pictured), consisting of a copper-plated disk that spins and rubs against a static base containing a layer of electrodes and a conducting surface. The device can harvest mechanical energy from gentle wind, tap-water flow and normal body movements.

The technology could be developed for large-scale power generation, the authors say.

Nature Commun. 5, 3426 (2014) http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ncomms4426