A Biocompatible Charger: From Starch to Flowing Electrons

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A compound made from a starch derivative and baking soda may be a new cost-effective charging mechanism.

The conversion of Mechanical energy to electrical energy has been around for a long time, but scientists are now taking it even further. Scientists from Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Technology (DGIST), with colleagues in Korea and India, have developed a cost-effective and biocompatible compound that can help charge low-energy electronic devices like calculators and watches.

Biocompatible Charger
The new technology can charge low-energy devices like watches

Triboelectric nanogenerators are devices that harvest mechanical energy and convert it into an electric current. However, the components used in these generators are hazardous and are not suitable for wearable applications like watches. To tackle this, scientists made use of another component called Cyclodextrin which is a polysaccharide compound derived from starch. Scientists believe that the incorporation of cyclodextrin in the triboelectric nanogenerators is what makes it unique and biocompatible in nature. 

They linked it with sodium ions, to form a metal-organic framework (MOF). The MOF was then integrated into the nanogenerator by coating it onto a copper electrode that is placed on a plastic polyethylene terephthalate (PET) base. A Teflon layer placed on the opposite side to the MOF layer enabled the generation of electric current each time the MOF makes contact with the Teflon Layer. In this process called the triboelectric effect, every time there is movement, the two sides of the nanogenerator open and close and electrons begin to flow. 

The device was tested by attaching it to various parts of the body and results showed a significant amount of harvested energy, which was also able to charge digital watches, calculators, and hydrometers. The results of the study were recently published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.

This MOF extends the capabilities of biocompatible materials that could be used in wearable devices and gives researchers a new perspective on the applications of triboelectric nanogenerators.

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