Triboelectric sensor for self-powered tracking of object motion inside tubing

Yuanjie Su, Guang Zhu, Weiqing Yang, Jin Yang, Jun Chen, Qingshen Jing, Zhiming Wu, Yadong Jiang, Zhong Lin Wang

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

129 Citations (Scopus)


We report a self-powered, single-electrode-based triboelectric sensor (SE-TES) array for detecting object motion inside of a plastic tube. This innovative, cost-effective, simple-designed SE-TES consists of thin-film-based ring-shaped Cu electrodes and a polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) tube. On the basis of the coupling effect between triboelectrification and electrostatic induction, the sensor generates electric output signals in response to mechanical motion of an object (such as a ball) passing through the electrodes. An array of Cu electrodes linearly aligned along the tube enables the detection of location and speed of the moving steel ball inside. The signal-to-noise ratio of this fabricated device reached 5.3 × 103. Furthermore, we demonstrated real-time monitoring and mapping of the motion characteristics of the steel ball inside the tube by using a seven-unit array of electrode channels arranged along the tube. Triggered by the output current signal, LED bulbs were utilized as real-time indicators of the position of a rolling ball. In addition, the SE-TES also shows the capability of detecting blockage in a water pipe. This work demonstrates potentially widespread applications of the triboelectric sensor in a self-powered tracking system, blockage detection, flow control, and logistics monitoring.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3843-3850
Number of pages8
JournalACS Nano
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 22 Apr 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • pipeline blockage detection
  • self-powered
  • tracking sensor
  • triboelectric effect

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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