Researchers Invent Nano-Tires That Harvest Energy From Friction

This innovation could improve a vehicle's efficiency by at least 10%.

Credit: College of Engineering

Credit: College of Engineering

As TrueActivist has shared before, there’s a lot of  energy to be harvested from human activity. And now, researchers have developed a nano-tire that may potentially improve a vehicle’s efficiency by 10% if deployed on a real-world scale.

University of Wisconsin-Madison scientists have successfully developed a car tire that can harvest energy from friction. When the tire, embedded with a new nanogenerator and electrodes,  rubs against the road, it produces a small electric current. Such occurrence is recognized as the turboelectric effect, and it reclaims energy that is otherwise lost during transit. While the innovation has obvious applications for electric cars, it also has potential at improving the fuel efficiency of petrol-sucking vehicles.

As shared by, the nanogenerator ultimately could provide automobile manufacturers a new way to squeeze greater efficiency out of their vehicles.

Credit: College of Engineering

Credit: College of Engineering

The innovation was first reported by the researchers in a paper published in the journal Nano Energy May 6, 2015. Xudong Wang, an associate professor of materials science and engineering at UW-Madison, along with his PhD student Yanchao Mao, have been developing this device for about a year now.

In a release, Wang notes, “The friction between the tire and the ground consumes about 10 percent of a vehicle’s fuel. That energy is wasted. So if we can convert that energy, it could give us very good improvement in fuel efficiency.”

Credit: College of Engineering

Credit: College of Engineering

To test the nanogenerator, the team implanted electrodes into segments of a tire on a toy car then wired it up to small LEDs on the vehicle. As the car traversed, the lights flickered on and off, a clear sign it was successfully harvesting and reusing energy from friction. The team now aims to adapt this technology on a larger scale.

If employed on a real-world scale, the amount of energy harvested will be directly related to the weight of the vehicle. Wang estimates that with a 50% friction to energy rate, the efficiency of a given vehicle could be improved by 10% – no small feat, indeed.

“Regardless of the energy being wasted, we can reclaim it, and this makes things more efficient,” Wang says. “I think that’s the most exciting part of this, and is something I’m always looking for: how to save the energy from consumption.”

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