Creating Self-Charging Tech with Electronic Lab Notebooks


A recent study has demonstrated the feasibility of harnessing mechanical energy human motion to generate electrical energy to power personal devices like watches, smartphones, and wearables. Image credit: Flickr user ThoroughlyReviewed

As global concerns about climate change rise, scientists are looking for new ways to harvest energy from cleaner sources—such as wind or solar—to power electronic devices. Capturing the mechanical energy from motion has presented a particular challenge within this field, since the mechanical energy input for most generators greatly exceeds the output of electrical energy that can be put to practical use. However, new research suggests that it may be possible to develop commercial wearable electronics that run on everyday human motion. Electronic notebooks can help scientists at every stage of the research, development, and testing processes for these devices.

Capturing Mechanical Energy with a Triboelectric Nanogenerator (TENG)

So far, researchers have developed a variety of mechanical energy harvesters, but one of the most promising is the triboelectric nanogenerator (TENG). A TENG converts mechanical energy into electrical energy by taking advantage of the coupling between triboelectrification and electrostatic induction. Scientists have proposed that a TENG could harvest mechanical energy from a wide range of sources, including rotating tires, ocean waves or human movements.

Possible applications in which a TENG could be utilized include self-powered medical tools, environmental monitoring devices, personal electronics, and — someday in the future — even large scale power.1 Interest in the TENG has been growing in the personal electronics industry because the technology has certain benefits that would make it ideal for powering portable wearable devices using the energy of human motion. Additionally, a TENG can be created using materials that are inexpensive, lightweight, and biocompatible.2

To take advantage of these benefits, a group of researchers at Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology (SAIT) in South Korea recently conducted a study that provides proof of principle that TENG can be used to capture the energy of human body motions and convert it into enough energy to power a small portable device. In a paper published in APL Materials, they showed the amount of energy produced in one minute of arm swinging was greater than or equal to the amount that is needed to power a smart watch, activity band or smart phone for the same period of time.3

Building On Research to Develop Commercially Viable Self-Powered Devices

While the work of the research team from SAIT provides proof of principle for the feasibility of developing portable devices that can run on human motion using a TENG, there are still technological improvements that need to be made before commercially viable devices can be created. For instance, researchers who are developing real systems will have to overcome limitations like impedance matching, frequency control and the stability of the structure.

Not only will this require creative design efforts, but it will also involve extensive prototype testing. As researchers design prototypes and test them on real subjects, an electronic lab notebook (ELN) can help with the organization and storage of research data. An ELN can also facilitate communications between materials science researchers and device development experts so that they can tweak prototypes and optimize them for today’s market.

ELNs can also be beneficial for researchers who are seeking to increase the energy output capabilities of the existing TENG. By achieving this goal, it may be possible to harness human motion to power larger devices, like tablets or laptops, or even to generate excess electrical energy that can be stored for future use. In addition, if scientists can find a way to increase the ratio of energy output to energy input, it may be possible to power devices with more passive human movements that require less physical exertion than arm swinging, such as walking or even typing. These are all long-term goals, so it will be important for researchers to store data in a way that makes it easy to access data that was collected and calculations that were run months and even years before. Keeping track of information electronically with an ELN is much more practical than using traditional paper notebooks.

BIOVIA Electronic Lab Notebooks (ELNs) are ideal for research labs that are seeking innovative solutions to the energy challenges that the global community currently faces. An ELN can support your lab at every step of the process, from the initial theoretical research to the development of a market-compatible prototype of the testing of the final product. Contact us today to learn more about ELNs and our other lab software offerings!

  1.  “Flexible triboelectric generator,” March 2012,
  2.  “Potential role of motion for enhancing maximum output energy of triboelectric nanogenerator,” 2017,
  3.  “Can the motion of checking your smartwatch charge it?” May 10, 2017,