Nelson Sepulveda, an Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Michigan State University, has discovered a new innovative way to collect energy from human motion. Sepulveda, along with other researchers, has managed to create the biocompatible ferroelectric nanogenerator best known as FENG. It is a self-powered device that harvests energy through everyday motions, like swiping or walking.

In late 2016, FENG was introduced to the public after Sepulveda and his team of scientists successfully demonstrated their sheet-like device by using it to power LED lights, an LCD touchscreen, and a keyboard. The process worked without the aid of a battery as mechanical energy was converted to electrical energy, and vice versa.

FENG can change the way we power numerous autonomous electronics.

According to Sepulveda, “every technology starts with a breakthrough and this is a breakthrough for this particular technology.”

Breakthrough Kinetic Energy

It was discovered that FENG becomes more powerful every time it is folded. The smaller it gets, the more powerful it becomes. The biocompatible ferroelectric nanogenerator has a silicon wafer. It is composed of ionized sheets of polyimide, polypropylene ferroelectric, and silver. Each layer consists of charged particles like atoms and ions.

Feng’s breakthrough attributes follow:

  • Lightweight
  • Biocompatible
  • Low-cost
  • Flexible
  • Robust
  • Scalable

These advantages make FENG a promising player in the field of mechanical energy harvesting and wireless charging. It can change the way we power numerous autonomous electronics, such as cell phones, wireless headsets, and other touchscreen gadgets.

Kinetic Energy Power Eliminates Chargers

Kinetic energy is key to mobile wireless charging with FENG

Sepulveda boldly envisions a world where people no longer need charging their mobile phones for an entire week because most of the necessary energy will be produced by their movements.

The National Science Foundation, a government agency in the United States that funds education and research, underwrote Sepulveda’s research. Wei Li, Tongyu Wang, and David Torres, all doctoral students at MSU;  as well as Chuan Wang, an Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at MSU, are likewise contributing to the study.

FENG continues to expand and develop as it presents multiple functions. Michigan State University researchers have added a new trick to the device’s repertoire. They turned it into a thin, flexible microphone, and loudspeaker. They discovered that the system was so sensitive that it can pick up sound vibrations.

The team also transformed it into a ‘security patch’. Researchers hooked it up to a computer and used it as a voice recognition lock. They realized that FENG is precise enough to differentiate between users.

FENG Multifunctionality

Sepulveda received high praises for the discovery;  “The fidelity and quality of the sound recognition are high enough to recognize the pitches and the frequency components of an individual’s voice,” he said.

FENG is a disruptive technological advancement that can further refine today’s modern gadgets. Out-of-this-world concepts have been proposed like having a voice-activated newspaper that talks back to the reader.

Li, who is also part of Sepulveda’s team, mentioned that other potential uses for FENG include a voice protected health-monitoring wristband as well as a special type of noise-cancelling sheeting.

With technology’s continuous innovation, it is just a matter of time before FENG becomes the benchmark for the next-generation of audio and smart tech devices. FENG’s attributes could eventually help develop foldable loudspeakers, voice-activated security codes for computers and other gadgets, and even talking newspapers. It could also make smartphones thinner than ever, by having the mic and the speakers built into the screen itself.

FENG represents fundamental research that will change the way we power and interact with devices of the future.