Toilet flushes may help power homes

Apr 22 2014, 15:00 IST
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When dielectric materials are in water, an electrical double layer forms around the outside of the material. Reuters When dielectric materials are in water, an electrical double layer forms around the outside of the material. Reuters
SummaryTired of erratic power-cuts at home? Flushing your toilet may help!

Tired of erratic power-cuts at home? Flushing your toilet may help!

Scientists have developed a novel way to harness the motion of water, including from raindrops cascading down a window or from a toilet flush, as a sustainable energy source that can power homes.

Researcher Youn Sang Kim and colleagues at Seoul National University and Korea Electronics Technology Institute (KETI) have adapted a transducer to convert the mechanical energy from water motion into electrical energy.

When dielectric materials are in water, an electrical double layer forms around the outside of the material.

Variations between water and a poly (4 vinyl phenol) dielectric layer were shown to induce electric charges at an electrode, 'Chemistry World' reported.

Researchers demonstrated that the motion from a 30 micro-litres water droplet in such a system was able to generate enough electricity to power a green light-emitting diode (LED).

"Using the energy harvesters based on this novel concept, we demonstrated the wide applicability toward natural water's motions, such as rain, rivers, and even sea waves as well," researchers said in an abstract in the journal Energy & Environmental Science.

"We believe that they can substantially inspire for new energy harvesting technology form ambient energy sources," they said.

The technology could also be used on surfaces outside of homes alongside solar and wind power-generating components.

"We hope our work can be applied to everyday life," said Kim.

This is a realistic possibility as the electrodes are flexible and transparent so could coat windows, roofs and even toilet bowls, to generate electricity from raindrops and water flow, the report said.

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