This Morse Code-Transmtiting Wearable Communicator Is Built From Energy-Harvesting Recycled Waste
Scientists from the University of Surrey, Loughborough University, and the Free University of Bolzano-Bozen have demonstrated a wearable energy-harvesting communications wristband constructed from discarded paper towels and plastic cups — and are hoping to extend the technology to smartwatches in the future.
"It won't be long until we have to ask ourselves which of the items we own are not connected to the internet. However, the current internet-of-things (IoT) revolution highlights the simple fact that our planet doesn't have the raw resources to continue to make these devices which are in such high demand," claims project lead Bhaskar Dudem, PhD. "Our research demonstrates that there is a path to creating sustainable technology that runs on electricity powered by us, the users of that technology."
The wristband wearable created by Dudem and colleagues harvests energy from the wearer's movement through material which acts as a triboelectric nanogenerator (TENG) — but rather than using virgin raw materials, the so-called C@PW-TENG is constructed from plastic cups and carbon-coated paper wipes collected from a waste bin.
Initially the team concentrated on proving the functionality of the recycled TENG itself, showing it could generate enough power to drive a small electronic device. The project then shifted towards a practical applications, in the form of a wearable device capable of transmitting messages via Morse code. The team's final test saw nine of the recycled TENGs used to drive a nine-segment keyboard connected to an Arduino microcontroller — allowing characters to be entered into a connected computer for display on-screen.
"Based on [our analysis," the team writes, "our C@PW-TENG device is expected to have an impact on future self-powered sensors and Internet of Things systems."
"The core mission of the Advanced Technology Institute is to help build a world where clean energy is available to all," says Ravi Silva, director of the University of Surrey's ATI where the work took place. "Our energy-harvesting technology embodies this key mission, and we stand ready to work with industry to ensure this technology reaches its full potential."
The team's work has been published in the journal Applied Materials & Interfaces under closed-access terms.