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Could Apple use Triboelectric Technology in Future iDevices?

80. Special Report
Late last year Professor Wang at the Georgia Institute of Technology revealed their ground breaking work on technology known as the triboelectric effect. The technology was humbly discovered back in 1757 by
John Carl Wilcke. Wikipedia tells us that NASA follows what they call the "Triboelectrification Rule" whereby they will cancel a launch if the launch vehicle is predicted to pass through certain types of clouds. Energy colliding creates positive or negative energy. Professor Wang tells us that the technology could very soon be useful in powering future smart devices like a smartphone. This week the US Patent Office revealed that Samsung is pursuing this technology for future smartphones. Just in case this is something that Apple may pursue one day in one form or another, we thought that we'd casually bring this technology to your attention.


To understand this technology a little better, we provide you with this 2013 introductory video from a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Professor Wang is using what's technically known as the triboelectric effect to create surprising amounts of electric power by rubbing or touching two different materials together.


Professor Wang believes the discovery can provide a new way to power mobile devices such as sensors and smartphones by capturing the otherwise wasted mechanical energy from such sources as walking, the wind blowing, vibration, ocean waves or even cars driving by.




As noted in our opening summary, a published patent application from Samsung surfaced this week on this very technology for future smartphones. Our Patently Mobile IP blog has just posted a brief report on their filing here.



Samsung's invention could be applied by using triboelectric technology into a top film of a smartphone or tablet. The user's actual touching, tapping and rubbing of the display in everyday usage could generate new energy that's fed back to the battery.


Some of the early sponsors of this research include the National Science Foundation; U.S. Department of Energy; MANA, part of the National Institute for Materials in Japan; Korean corporation Samsung and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Energy harvesting is an area other companies are looking into. Another form of energy harvesting could be found in a Microsoft patent application that we recently covered.


Every major tech company on the planet is racing to find new battery technologies or energy harvesting methods to help keep our everyday devices like smartphones running longer. Although we've yet to cover an Apple patent on this specific topic or form of energy harvesting, Apple has done a lot of research into using future solar cells for mobile devices.


To date it is unknown which of these energy saving technologies will eventually emerge as the winner, but the race is on to get them to market is quite evident. The first company that will be able to boast that their smart devices can last 5 or 7 days on a single charge is going to be a big market winner. Until such time, you could read more about triboelectric generators here.


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