Playing With Toy Cars and the Triboelectric Effect

Wednesday 1st July 2015

Playing with toy trucks does not normally lead to ground breaking energy saving technology development, but a group of University of Wisconsin-Madison engineers, and others, have developed a nanogenerator by using toy trucks.

The nano generator harvests energy from a car's rolling tyre friction, and ultimately it could provide car manufacturers with a new way to squeeze greater efficiency out of their EVs.

Xudong Wang, the Harvey D. Spangler fellow and an associate professor of materials science and engineering at UW-Madison, and his PhD student Yanchao Mao have been working on this device for about a year, initially trialling it on a toy truck.

The system works through an electrode integrated into a segment of the tyre. When this part of the tyre surface comes into contact with the ground, the friction between those two surfaces produces an electrical charge - this is called the triboelectric effect.

The nanogenerator relies on the triboelectric effect to harness energy from the changing electric potential between the pavement and a vehicle's wheels. This triboelectric effect is the electric charge that results from the contact or rubbing together of two dissimilar objects, providing an excellent way to take advantage of energy that is usually lost due to friction.

During initial trials the researchers used a toy car with LED lights to demonstrate the concept. They attached an electrode to the wheels of the car, and as it rolled across the ground, the LED lights flashed on and off, supporting the idea that energy lost to friction can actually be collected and reused.

The researchers also discovered that the amount of energy generated is directly related to the weight of a car and its speed. So, the amount of energy saved can vary depending on the vehicle - with estimates of about a 10% increase in the average vehicle's mileage based on a 50% friction energy conversion efficiency. Already promising so much more on a real car, compared to the initial ‘test’ vehicle.

So it maybe results from a toy car now - but if this technology is applied on a truck weighing a couple of tons or more, imagine what energy it could generate.

Categories: Renewable, Reviews, Technology

Wednesday 1st July 2015


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