Researchers are working on a new wireless power source that uses triboelectricity - a green energy source.

Engineers at Clemson University in the US have been working U-TENG; a small device made of plastic and graphene tape that generates electricity from motion and vibrations.

When the two materials are brought together — through such actions as clapping the hands or tapping feet — they generate voltage that is detected by an external circuit, and then then stored in a capacitor or a battery.

The researchers now report that they have created a wireless TENG, called the W-TENG, which greatly expands the applications of the technology.

The W-TENG was engineered under the same premise as the U-TENG using materials that are so opposite in their affinity for electrons that they generate a voltage when brought in contact with each other.

In the W-TENG, plastic is swapped for a multipart fibre made of graphene, and a biodegradable polymer known as polylactic acid (PLA).

The end result is a device that generates a maximum of 3,000 volts.

Because the voltage is so high, the W-TENG generates an electric field around itself that can be sensed wirelessly. Its electrical energy, too, can be stored wirelessly in capacitors and batteries.

“It cannot only give you energy, but you can use the electric field also as an actuated remote. For example, you can tap the W-TENG and use its electric field as a ‘button’ to open your garage door, or you could activate a security system — all without a battery, passively and wirelessly,” said Sai Sunil Mallineni, the first author of the study and a Ph.D. student in physics and astronomy.

The wireless applications of the W-TENG are abundant, extending into resource-limited settings, such as in outer space, the middle of the ocean or even the battlefield.

“Several developing countries require a lot of energy, though we may not have access to batteries or power outlets in such settings,” said physics professor Ramakrishna Podila.

“The W-TENG could be one of the cleaner ways of generating energy in these areas.”

The team’s paper, detailing the advent of the W-TENG, has been published in the journal Advanced Energy Materials.