Photo Credit: Guido Panzarasa/ Matter
Wood is a bad conductor of electricity. But scientists in Switzerland have found a way to generate electricity using wood and it is said to be safe and not give a shock. They have developed a new type of wooden flooring that generates power when a person walks on it. As surprising as it may seem, this new technology can give a self-sustainable option to power buildings. In many homes and commercial spaces, wood is used for flooring. The Swiss researchers layered pieces of wood and electrodes under the floorboard to turn it into a nanogenerator. When a person walks on it, the layers become electrically charged.
Describing their feat in the journal Matter, the researchers said when a person walks on the floorboard, it generates a pattern of electrical connection and disconnection with the lower layer. This pattern leads to the triboelectric effect, which enables the flow of electrons and generates electricity.
Lead research author Guido Panzarasa explained the challenge they faced in a statement. He said wood is triboneutral, meaning it has no real tendency to acquire or to lose electrons. So, the researchers coated one of the wood layers with polydimethylsiloxane, which easily acquires electrons. In the other layer, scientists embedded nanocrystals called zeolitic imidazolate framework-8, which willingly loses electrons.
To demonstrate the technology, the researchers used a floorboard generator the size of a paper to turn footprints into electricity and power a lightbulb. In a home setting, the flooring could be used to power lights and small electronics. The researchers are currently trying to find the most eco-friendly option to use wood-based nanogenerators on floors of residential homes and smart buildings.
However, the ultimate goal of the researchers is to understand the properties of wood beyond those that are already known. This will enable them to harness the potential of wood for future sustainable smart buildings with the self-sustainable capacity to generate a significant part of their power needs. If this experiment shows further potential, then we could soon see reduced dependency on outside sources of power generation.