A highly efficient triboelectric negative air ion generator


Negative air ions (NAIs) have been widely harnessed in recent technologies for air pollutant removal and their beneficial effects on human health, including allergy relief and neurotransmitter modulation. Herein, we report a corona-type, mechanically stimulated triboelectric NAI generator. Using the high output voltage from a triboelectric nanogenerator, air molecules can be locally ionized from carbon fibre electrodes through various movements, with the electron–ion transformation efficiency reaching up to 97%. Using a palm-sized device, 1 × 1013 NAIs (theoretically 1 × 105 ions cm−3 in 100 m3 space) are produced in one sliding motion, and particulate matter (PM 2.5) can be rapidly reduced from 999 to 0 µg m−3 in 80 s (in a 5,086 cm3 glass chamber) under an operation frequency of 0.25 Hz. This triboelectric NAI generator is simple, safe and effective, providing an appealing alternative, sustainable avenue to improving health and contributing to a cleaner environment.

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Fig. 1: Prototype of the MSNG.
Fig. 2: Output quantification of TENG for air ionization.
Fig. 3: Analysis of the working mechanism of the MSNG.
Fig. 4: Performance of the MSNG.

Data availability

The data that support the plots within this paper and other findings of this study are available from the corresponding authors (V.K.S.H. and Z.L.W.) upon reasonable request.


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This research was supported by the National Key R&D Project of the Ministry of Science and Technology (grant no. 2016YFA0202704), the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (grant nos. 2019CDXZWL001 and 2018CDJDWL0011), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant no. 51572040) and the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), Taiwan (project nos. MOST-107-2221-E-260-016-MY3 and MOST-108-2918-I-260-004). We also thank the characterization service of the Analytical and Testing Center of Chongqing University.

Author information




Z.L.W. supervised the project. H.G. and V.K.S.H. conceived the project and designed the experimental procedures. H.G., J.C. and L.W. fabricated the devices and performed the electrical performance measurements. Y.L. carried out the mass spectrometry analyses. C.A. helped to build the experimental setup. H.G. arranged the figures and analysed the data. H.G., J.C., L.W., V.K.S.H., J.H., A.C.W. and C.H. wrote the manuscript. All authors contributed to the paper.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Vincent K. S. Hsiao or Zhong Lin Wang.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Figs. 1–12.

Supplementary Video 1

Demonstration of the PM 2.5 purification process.

Supplementary Video 2

Demonstration of the heavy smog removal process.

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Guo, H., Chen, J., Wang, L. et al. A highly efficient triboelectric negative air ion generator. Nat Sustain (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-020-00628-9

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