Marine Energy Program

Technology-Specific System Design and Validation

Project Name: Triboelectric Nanogenerator for Harvesting Wave Energy and Powering Marine Sensors

Project Team: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory 

Lead Recipient Location: Richland, Washington

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Pacific Northwest National Laboratory researchers developed and demonstrated prototypes of triboelectric nanogenerator (TENG) systems. These emerging technologies are aimed at harvesting energy from low frequency, randomly directed waves. TENGs can be used to power instruments aboard hurricane and tsunami detection or water quality monitoring systems, particularly low-power instrumentation such as temperature or pressure sensors. Currently, TENG prototypes can produce a few milliwatts of power.  

Researchers integrated cylinder-shaped TENG prototypes with power management circuits, sensors, and communications systems, and demonstrated the feasibility of using TENG technology to power sensing equipment. The team also designed a new disk-shaped TENG device integrated with a mechanical transmission system for efficiently extracting energy from random low-frequency waves. The input of the gearbox takes the back-and-forth (i.e., clockwise and counterclockwise) motion of a pendulum, but spins the disk-shaped TENG device in only one direction, meaning the disk does not need to come to a stop and switch directions.  

An animation of a triboelectric nanogenerator device rolling on a wave.
Triboelectric nanogenerators are an emerging and cost-effective technology for harvesting energy from low-frequency, randomly directed waves.
Animation from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

These TENGs can be easily fabricated using low-cost and versatile materials when compared to conventional electromagnetic generators. In addition, TENGs can float freely and do not have to be moored to the seafloor, which is suitable for powering ocean observation systems and other relevant blue economy applications. While these prototypes currently harness enough energy to power small sensors and transmitters, researchers aim to develop TENGs that produce a few watts of power in the coming years. 

Technology-Specific System Design and Validation Projects