SINGAPORE (CU)_ The ability to charge a phone battery or just about any device harnessing energy from the surroundings has become a new reality with researchers from the National University of Singapore’s College of Design and Engineering have designed a moisture-driven electricity generation (MEG) device from a thin layer of fabric around 0.3 mm in thickness from sea salt, carbon ink, and a special water-absorbing gel. The researchers have found the ability to produce electricity by harnessing moisture in the air around us with basic components like sea salt and a piece of fabric, or even powering everyday electronics with a non-toxic battery that is extremely thin.
In a time where we are witnessing soaring energy prices across the globe, the ability to generate electricity with simple means can be economical, environmentally friendly and be a possible solution in countries that are facing an energy crisis due to inflation and the on-going crisis between the west and Russia.
MEG devices are designed on the capability of different materials to generate electricity from the interaction with moisture in the atmosphere. The potential for everyday applications such as wearable electronics like health monitors, electronic skin sensors, and others are closer than ever with this study, however certain challenges are that the technologies include water saturation of the device when encountering to ambient humidity and poor electrical performance. Electricity produced with conventional MEG devices is inadequate and unsuitable to power electrical devices.
To deal with these challenges, Lead researcher and Assistant Professor Tan Swee Ching from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering under the College of Design and Engineering designed a new MEG device containing two regions of different properties to constantly maintain a difference in water content across the regions to produce electricity and keep its output for hundreds of hours.
The research team are awaiting approval for a patent for this technology which they hope to make commercially available.