You know how you sometimes come into contact with an object (or a person!) and receive a sharp zap of electricity? Well, as it turns out, you might soon be able to use static electricity to charge your phone. How awesome is that?
The Science Behind It: How Static Electricity Works
How does static electricity work? It’s pretty straightforward: whenever there’s an imbalance of electric charges within or on the surface of an object, this generates static electricity. Here, the electric charges keep building up on the surface of the object until they find a way of being discharged.
Want a real-life example? Say you’re binge-watching your favorite movies on Netflix, and you absentmindedly rub the excess fabric of your sweater on your couch as you do this. Now, you’re actually collecting an abundance of negative charges (electrons) when you do this, and these will cling to your body until they find an “outlet” where they can be released.
So: when you get up from the couch and brush past your sister while you’re on the way to the toilet, you’ll feel a slight shock or zap. That’s your surplus electrons being transferred to your sister!
Using Static Electricity To Power Electronics
You might not realize this, but many folks actually do use static electricity in their day-to-day lives. For instance, say you use a photocopier to make copies of your passport, or you print out your credit card application on a laser printer. Here, you’re actually using static electricity to build up ink on a drum, and transfer that ink to paper. Pretty cool, right?
Let’s delve a little deeper into how this works: when we use static electricity to power electronics, we’re basically utilizing the electric charges that we’ve collected (instead of trying to deflect it).
An important term to understand here is the Triboelectric Effect, which ScienceDaily defines as “a type of contact electrification in which certain materials become electrically charged after coming into contact with another different material”.
Charging Your Phone With Static Electricity: How It Works
Unfortunately, scientists are still working on understanding the nuts and bolts of how static electricity can be used to charge phones… and nobody has a perfect explanation or solution as of now.
That said, we have made great strides into understanding static electricity (and learning how to harness it) as of late. More specifically, a new study published in January 2019 identified the underlying cause of static electricity, which puts us one step closer to using static electricity as a power source for phones and other small electronic devices.
The study, which was led by researchers at the University of Buffalo, is backed by an impressive $400,000 National Science Foundation grant. In the study, it was found that static electricity is attributed to tiny structural changes that occur at the surface of materials when they come into contact with each other.
3 ways static electricity will change the way we interact with our devices
While there aren’t any commercial solutions that tap on the power of static electricity as of now, here are 3 ways in which we foresee that static electricity will change the way we interact with our devices in time to come:
1. “Dead” phones will be a thing of the past
As study co-author James Chen notes, the friction between your fingers and your smartphone screen is a “great potential source of energy” that you can tap into.
Assuming that researchers do figure out a way to allow consumers to charge their phones using this friction, this means that you’ll always be able to ensure that your phone doesn’t run out of battery. We don’t know about you, but we can’t wait for this day to come!
2. Power banks will be obsolete
If you’re constantly plugged in and using your mobile phone, you probably wouldn’t dream of leaving home without your trusty power bank.
Good news: once you can charge your phones using static electricity, there will be no need for you to lug those bulky devices around. How’s that for convenience?
3. People will continue going green when it comes to transport
Imagine being able to charge your phone using the friction generated when you cycle (or commute using an e-scooter). This creates even more incentive for people to go green when it comes to transport.
Want to go green, and do your part for the environment?
You can’t charge your phone with static electricity just yet… but there are other ways of doing your part for the environment.
For instance, you can purchase your electricity from a retailer that offers green electricity plans, such as iSwitch. Here at iSwitch, we offer electricity that is 100% carbon neutral and has zero environmental impact.
Check out our Green Plans for both residential homes and commercial properties today!
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