Scientists in India and Germany have unveiled a material that generates tiny amounts of electricity from mechanical stresses like a person’s touch or step. The idea is to create a biodegradable energy source that can pump electricity into a storage supercapacitor to power electronics, replace batteries and safely break down without polluting the environment.
Their material, described in the journal Applied Materials & Interfaces, is a biodegradable plastic polymer called polyvinylidene difluoride sandwiched between conducting carbon electrodes. Interestingly, they mixed DNA with the plastic because the genetic material is biodegradable while having properties that help harvest electricity. In fact, DNA is known for its ability to accumulate electric charge when mechanical stress is applied to the molecule, a property called piezoelectricity.
In lab tests, a researcher pressing on a small piece of the prototype material generated enough electricity to light 55 blue LEDs. Putting the material on a shoe and then juggling a soccer ball, they recorded small bursts of electricity with every hit.