They have developed a small metallic tab, called a triboelectric nanogenerator which, when attached to the body, can generate electricity from simple movements – including bending a finger.
The tab is only 1.5cm long and 1cm wide, and can deliver a maximum voltage of 124 volts, a current of 10 microamps and a power density of 0.22 millwatts per square centimetre.
This is certainly not enough to rapidly charge a smartphone, but these are the early days of the invention’s development, and it was able to power 48 LED lights simultaneously.
The collaborative research project was led by teams at the University at Buffalo in the US and the Institute of Semiconductors (IoP) at the Chinese Academy of Science (CAS).
“No one likes being tethered to a power outlet or lugging around a portable charger,” said lead author Qiaoqiang Gan in a study published by the Nano Energy journal.
“The human body is an abundant source of energy. We thought: ‘Why not harness it to produce our own power?'” said Dr Gan, from the University of Buffalo’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.