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This game-changing new gel can convert motion into energy

Published Jun 24th, 2024 8:55PM EDT
gel in bottle
Image: gorina_anna / Adobe

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Japanese scientists have created an electric gel that could revolutionize the future of electronics. The gel can be combined with highly flexible electrodes to create a wearable sensor that is capable of picking up low-frequency vibrations—like everyday human motion—and then converting them into energy.

The gel was created by a team of researchers working at the National Institute of Materials Science (NIMS), Meiji Pharmaceutical University, and Hokkaido University. According to the findings, which are published in Angewandte Chemi International Edition, the gel was able to convert frequencies as low as 17 Hz into voltage output of up to 600 mV.

That’s 83 percent higher than the voltage that is generated by current alkyl–π liquid electret-based sensors, which the new electric gel sensors could replace in the future. The researchers want to move forward from here and develop wearable sensors with stronger charges using the gel.

Image source: motortion / Adobe

They hope that this will allow the new gel to join the various efforts of scientists around the world trying to create novel technologies that are flexible and environmentally sustainable. The researchers also say that the gel’s elastic storage modulus was found to be around 40 million times that of liquids similar to it. Further, it could be improved with a simplified fixation and a strong seal.

The new electric gel is what scientists call an electret. It’s essentially a material that can store an electric charge even though it is weak as a conductor. In this particular case, the gel appears to be capable of storing the electric charge that it converts from the motion for a permanent amount of time—at least based on the research done so far.

The researchers plan to scale up the gel’s potential and even offer it to the healthcare and robotics industries. Perhaps it could power internal devices used in medical procedures—such as pacemakers—by constantly restoring energy to the pacemaker through the motions of the human body. Other, similar research has seen scientists creating oxygen batteries, which could also work well within the human body.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.