The Department of Mechanics and Engineering Science in Penn’s state have informed the public of the possibility of stretchable systems that harvest energy from motion and breathing to power health monitoring devices. The departmental research is led by Cheng and Quiggle, two experts in Nano Energy.

Stretchable diagnostic and health-monitoring devices

Cheng explained that the supercapacitors and batteries currently powering stretchable and wearable devices have multiple shortcomings, such as limited stretchability and low energy density.

Micro-supercapacitors are the way forward. They provide the option for sensors to be self-powered without batteries. This is more environmentally friendly and ultimately cost-effective.

Micro-supercapacitors have smaller footprints, can discharge and charge rapidly, and have high power densities. Being storage devices for energy, they are adequate alternatives to replace or complement lithium-ion batteries in wearables.

Mechanical Movements Converted Into Electrical Energy

Triboelectric nanogenerators were integrated into the system by researchers, converting mechanical movements into electrical energy. This is the core idea for self-powered systems. This system enables wireless charging via everyday motions of the individual.

The combination of sensors with graphene-based strain and triboelectric nanogenerators with micro-supercapacitors arrays powers the sensors for wearable and stretchable medical devices.