Harvesting water wave energy by asymmetric screening of electrostatic charges on a nanostructured hydrophobic thin-film surface

Guang Zhu, Yuanjie Su, Peng Bai, Jun Chen, Qingshen Jing, Weiqing Yang, Zhong Lin Wang

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

431 Citations (Scopus)


Energy harvesting from ambient water motions is a desirable but underexplored solution to on-site energy demand for self-powered electronics. Here we report a liquid-solid electrification-enabled generator based on a fluorinated ethylene propylene thin film, below which an array of electrodes are fabricated. The surface of the thin film is charged first due to the water-solid contact electrification. Aligned nanowires created on the thin film make it hydrophobic and also increase the surface area. Then the asymmetric screening to the surface charges by the waving water during emerging and submerging processes causes the free electrons on the electrodes to flow through an external load, resulting in power generation. The generator produces sufficient output power for driving an array of small electronics during direct interaction with water bodies, including surface waves and falling drops. Polymer-nanowire-based surface modification increases the contact area at the liquid-solid interface, leading to enhanced surface charging density and thus electric output at an efficiency of 7.7%. Our planar-structured generator features an all-in-one design without separate and movable components for capturing and transmitting mechanical energy. It has extremely lightweight and small volume, making it a portable, flexible, and convenient power solution that can be applied on the ocean/river surface, at coastal/offshore areas, and even in rainy places. Considering the demonstrated scalability, it can also be possibly used in large-scale energy generation if layers of planar sheets are connected into a network.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6031-6037
Number of pages7
JournalACS Nano
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jun 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • contact electrification
  • energy harvesting
  • generators
  • self-powered electronics
  • water waves

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science (all)
  • Engineering (all)
  • Physics and Astronomy (all)


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