Researchers at Purdue introduce a new source of sustainable energy powered by crustacean shells.
When you hear the term “sustainable energy,” what exactly comes to mind? Wind turbines? Solar panels? Geothermal heating systems? As humanity continues its gradual shift away from nonrenewable resources, researchers are continuing to develop new and innovative ways of generating clean, sustainable energy.
This includes a team from Purdue University, who this week unveiled a new method of generating energy using a material taken from the discarded shells of marine crustaceans. Specifically, the team harvests a natural biopolymer called “chitosan” from the outer shells to create “triboelectric nanogenerators” (TENGs). These energy harvesting devices are capable of converting external mechanical energy into electricity, which could prove useful in powering numerous electronics, including virtual and augmented reality devices.
According to Purdue University’s Research Foundation News, Wu claimed this technology could be used for medical devices that monitor the heart and brain, smartphone screens, and various other touchscreen technologies. Apparently the device can also be used to detect body movement and turn that kinetic energy into electricity, which could be used to power various AR and VR devices. Theoretically, this means the energy you create while interacting with a VR or AR experience could be used to power said experiences. That is if you don’t mind wearing a biodegradable suit made of discarded crab shells.
“We have taken an innovative approach to using typically wasted shell material and turned it into functional, self-powered devices,” said Wenzhuo Wu, Assistant Professor of industrial engineering in Purdue’s College of Engineering and leader of the development team.
“Such a new class of TENGs derived from natural biomaterials may pave the way toward the economically viable and ecologically friendly production of flexible TENGs for self-powered nanosystems in biomedical and environmental applications.”
Image Credit: Purdue University