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Groundbreaking hydroelectric generator powers electronics through water evaporation

A groundbreaking innovation inspired by the classic drinking bird toy has emerged from the collaborative efforts of scientists. (CREDIT: journal Device)


A groundbreaking innovation inspired by the classic drinking bird toy has emerged from the collaborative efforts of scientists based in Hong Kong and Guangzhou, China. This innovation heralds a significant leap in energy conversion technology, as it efficiently transforms energy from water evaporation into electricity, a feat reported in the journal Device.


The research, led by Professor Hao Wu from South China University of Technology, introduces what is termed the "drinking bird triboelectric hydrovoltaic generator."


 
 

This invention stands out for its ability to power small electronics using water as a readily available fuel source. Wu expressed her astonishment and enthusiasm at witnessing the remarkable results of their creation.


The drinking bird toy, known colloquially as the "dippy bird," has long been a fixture in science classrooms. (CREDIT: Creative Commons)


The drinking bird toy, known colloquially as the "dippy bird," has long been a fixture in science classrooms. It comprises two glass bulbs connected by a tube containing methylene chloride.


 
 

Upon dipping its head in water, the bird initiates a process of evaporation, resulting in a pressure differential that causes the liquid in the bottom bulb to rise, causing the bird to dip forward into the water repeatedly.


Reflecting on her time as a postdoctoral researcher in Prof. Zuankai Wang's group at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Wu drew inspiration from the drinking bird toy as a potential means to enhance voltage output in evaporation energy generators.


 

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"I began to contemplate whether we could convert the evaporation energy into mechanical energy first, and then translate it into electricity," explained Wu.


"It was then that the idea of utilizing the drinking bird toy came to mind. With this inspiration, the concept of the drinking bird triboelectric hydrovoltaic generator was born."


 
 

The generator comprises two triboelectric nanogenerator modules positioned on either side of a reconstructed drinking bird engine. This setup was put to the test, successfully powering multiple devices such as liquid crystal displays (LCDs), temperature sensors, and calculators.


Design and electrical output of the drinking bird triboelectric hydrovoltaic generator (DB-THG). (CREDIT: journal Device)


A key obstacle faced by the researchers was overcoming friction that hindered the generator's performance. To address this challenge, they employed patterned fibers as charge transfer materials in the nanogenerator modules, effectively reducing friction and enabling smoother operation.


 
 

Looking ahead, the team aims to enhance the efficiency of water evaporation conversion to electrical energy by designing a new drinking bird model. They also intend to explore various applications for this technology, envisioning its integration into daily life.



"Additionally, we will explore various application opportunities for this device with the ultimate aim of delivering a practical product that can be used in our daily lives," said Zuankai Wang, corresponding author of the study and chair professor at Hong Kong Polytechnic University.


 
 

This work was supported by the Research Grants Council of Hong Kong, the Meituan Green Tech Fund, and the New Cornerstone Science Foundation.





For more science and technology stories check out our New Innovations section at The Brighter Side of News.


 

Note: Materials provided above by University of Arizona. Content may be edited for style and length.


 
 

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