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Bilayer of polyelectrolyte films for spontaneous power generation in air up to an integrated 1,000 V output


Environmentally adaptive power generation is attractive for the development of next-generation energy sources. Here we develop a heterogeneous moisture-enabled electric generator (HMEG) based on a bilayer of polyelectrolyte films. Through the spontaneous adsorption of water molecules in air and induced diffusion of oppositely charged ions, one single HMEG unit can produce a high voltage of ~0.95 V at low (25%) relative humidity (RH), and even jump to 1.38 V at 85% RH. A sequentially aligned stacking strategy is created for large-scale integration of HMEG units, to offer a voltage of more than 1,000 V under ambient conditions (25% RH, 25 °C). Using origami assembly, a small section of folded HMEGs renders an output of up to 43 V cm−3. Such integration devices supply sufficient power to illuminate a lamp bulb of 10 W, to drive a dynamic electronic ink screen and to control the gate voltage for a self-powered field effect transistor.

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Fig. 1: Biomimetic principle and structure of the BPF.
Fig. 2: Electric generation of a HMEG unit.
Fig. 3: Working mechanism of HMEG.
Fig. 4: Integration of HEMG units.
Fig. 5: Demonstration of the HMEG as a practical power source.
Fig. 6: Self-powered FET.

Data availability

The data that support the findings of this paper are available from the corresponding authors upon reasonable request.


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This work was supported by the National Key R&D Program of China (no. 2017YFB1104300), the National Science Foundation of China (nos. 22035005, 52022051, 22075165, 52073159 and 52090030), Tsinghua University Initiative Scientific Research Program (no. 2019Z08QCX08), NSFC-STINT (no. 21911530143), the State Key Laboratory of Tribology (no. SKLT2021B03) and Tsinghua-Foshan Innovation Special Fund (no. 2018THFS0412). This work is also supported by grant no. 2019GQG1025 from the Institute for Guo Qiang, Tsinghua University.

Author information




L.Q., H.C. and H.W. designed the experiments. H.W., H.C. and T.H. performed the experiments. Y.H. conducted computational studies. H.W., Y.S., D.X., P.Y. and Y.Z. designed and characterized the self-powered FET. H.C. and C.L. gave advice on experiments. L.Q. and H.C. supervised the entire project. All authors discussed the results and reviewed the manuscript.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Huhu Cheng or Liangti Qu.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Peer review information Nature Nanotechnology thanks Guihua Yu and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Figs. 1–33, Discussion and Tables 1–6.

Supplementary Video 1

Integration of HMEG units by the sequentially aligned stacking method.

Supplementary Video 2

Dynamic electronic ink screen powered by integrated HMEGs.

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Wang, H., Sun, Y., He, T. et al. Bilayer of polyelectrolyte films for spontaneous power generation in air up to an integrated 1,000 V output. Nat. Nanotechnol. (2021).

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