Researchers Create Device You Can Charge Just by Moving Your Fingers

Kinetic Energy Goes Electric

We have a lot of devices these days, and they all need to be charged. Though there are now pads for wireless charging, these are still plugged into a power outlet. In many cases, the charging process has barely evolved at all in the past decade or more.

But now, researchers from the University at Buffalo and the Chinese Academy of Science (CAS) might have developed the next step in this evolution, one that would no longer require plugging anything into a power socket. All it takes, according to their research recently published in the journal Nano Energy, is a special metallic tab and a little bit of body movement.

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The secret is an effect called triboelectric charging, and it’s something that most people have actually seen — or felt — before. Triboelectric charging happens when a material becomes electrically charged after coming into frictional contact with another material.

Yes, that’s right. Most static electricity happens this way, like when you accidentally touch a person and you get a small jolt from it. And no, we’re not talking about an emotional jolt here, silly.

This kind of contact electrification has been quite difficult to turn into a useful power source, although there have been studies that looked into it. Too often, the materials are difficult to produce or are not cost effective. The metallic tab developed by the researchers supposedly overcomes these hurdles.

Power Through Movement

The tab features two thin layers of gold that sandwich a slab of a silicon-based polymer called polydimethylsiloxane, which is typically used in contact lenses and Silly Putty. One layer of gold is stretched and then released, causing it to crumple. Upon applying force again, movement between the layers of gold and the polymer creates friction.

“This causes electrons to flow back and forth between the gold layers. The more friction, the greater the amount of power is produced,” lead author Yun Xu, a professor of Institute of Semiconductors at CAS, said in a press release. This friction can come from the slightest movement of a finger, the researchers explained.

A prototype metallic tab. Image credit: Nano Electricity/University at Buffalo
A prototype metallic tab. Image credit: Nano Electricity/University at Buffalo

As a demonstration in their study, the researchers used a metallic tab that’s only 1.5 cm (0.6 inches) long and 1 cm (0.4 inches) wide. The small tab generated 124 volts, with a maximum current and density that was enough to light 48 red LED lights at the same time. Though the tech is not quite there yet, the researchers hope that their material could soon charge smartphones and other smart gadgets using just movement.

“No one likes being tethered to a power outlet or lugging around a portable charger. The human body is an abundant source of energy. We thought: ‘Why not harness it to produce our own power?’” lead author Qiaoqiang Gan, an associate professor of electrical engineering at University at Buffalo, said in the press release.

Gan and his colleagues plan to improve the performance of this triboelectric charging device while at the same time working on a portable battery that can be used to store the energy the tab generates.

The post Researchers Create Device You Can Charge Just by Moving Your Fingers appeared first on Futurism.

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It’s moving slowly, but Pinterest and other tech companies are becoming less white and less male

Pinterest released its latest diversity report on Tuesday.

Slowly but surely, Pinterest is getting more diverse.

The company released its annual workforce diversity report on Tuesday, and claims that underrepresented minorities now make up 9 percent of its workforce, up from just 7 percent in 2016. Pinterest is also hiring more female employees: Women account for 45 percent of Pinterest’s workforce, up from 44 percent last year, according to this latest report.

The data represents advances compared to 2016 government data published earlier this year. And while the changes from year to year may seem small, the company is chipping away at those diversity proportions.

Here’s how Pinterest’s workforce has changed since 2014:

Women make up a larger percentage of Pinterest’s workforce than they did three years ago, and they also claim more technical jobs inside the company, roles that have traditionally been dominated by men. Women still account for 19 percent of Pinterest’s leadership positions, the same percentage the company had in 2014, but up slightly over the past two years.

Underrepresented minorities — people who are black, LatinX or Native American — also make up a larger percentage of Pinterest’s overall workforce. Minority employees make up a larger percentage of Pinterest’s technical and leadership groups than they did three years ago.

Here’s how Pinterest’s diversity report compares to similar reports from other tech companies. Silicon Valley has been making a push over the past few years to diversify the tech industry for a number of reasons, one of which is to bring in employees with a more diverse range of experiences and ideas. As you can see, Pinterest has a higher percentage of female employees than most other Silicon Valley giants.


Candice Morgan, Pinterest’s head of Inclusion & Diversity, says the company has instituted a number of programs in order to increase diversity, including Pinterest’s own version of the NFL’s Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate for top jobs like head coach. Pinterest’s version of the rule requires the company to interview at least one qualified female and underrepresented minority for each senior-level opening.

Pinterest also has an apprenticeship program to encourage candidates from nontraditional tech backgrounds to apply, and requires employees to complete an unconscious-bias training course in their first week on the job.


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