A very small device made from household materials such as paper, pencil and a Teflon tape can generate enough electricity to run a remote control.
A team from EPFL in Switzerland, working with researchers from the University of Tokyo, used some of everyday materials to make a tiny device that can generate more than 3 volts of power or electricity.
The simple, eco-friendly and inexpensive system can produce the same current as two AA batteries – enough to operate a remote control, researchers said.
The principle underlying this system is well known as static electricity. When two insulators like paper and teflon come into contact, they gain or lose electrons.
The system is made up of two small cards, where one side of each card is covered in pencil. The carbon serves as the electrode.
Teflon is then applied to the opposite side of one of the cards. When brought together, they make a sandwich: two layers of carbon on the outside, then two layers of paper, and one layer of Teflon in the middle.
They are then taped together in such a way that cannot touch, giving the system a configuration that makes it electrically neutral.
By pressing down with your finger on the system, the two insulators come into contact. This creates a charge differential, i.e. positive for the paper, negative for the Teflon.
When you release your finger and the cards separate, the charge passes to the carbon layers, which act as electrodes. A capacitor placed on the circuit absorbs the weak current that is generated.
To boost the device’s output, EPFL’s Microsystems Laboratory used sandpaper. Pressing the sandpaper firmly against the cards gives them a rough surface.