Powering the Future: Nanostructured Triboelectric Nanogenerators Revolutionize Energy Harvesting


Triboelectric nanogenerators (TENGs) have emerged as a class of devices capable of converting mechanical energy into electrical energy by utilizing the triboelectric effect. This effect occurs when two materials come into contact and then separate, resulting in the acquisition of an electrical charge. This charge separation phenomenon can be harnessed to generate electricity. Researchers have been exploring ways to improve the performance of TENGs through surface morphology engineering and chemical surface modification techniques.

Surface morphology engineering involves employing nanostructuring techniques to create micro/nano-level patterns on the triboelectric layers. These patterns significantly increase the effective contact area between triboelectric surfaces, leading to improved charge transfer and enhanced energy production. By increasing the contact area, the efficiency of charge collection is boosted, thereby increasing the overall output of the TENGs. On the other hand, chemical surface modification techniques focus on introducing functional groups or self-assembled monolayers to the surfaces of triboelectric materials. This modification enhances charge transfer efficiency and further improves energy production. Functionalization techniques involve introducing specific functional groups to the surface, which facilitate better charge transfer between the triboelectric layers.

Both surface morphology engineering and chemical surface modification techniques have proven beneficial for TENGs. By increasing the effective contact area between triboelectric surfaces and improving charge transfer, these methods enhance the overall performance of the devices while maintaining a straightforward configuration. The successful implementation of these techniques has the potential to increase the efficiency and output of TENGs, paving the way for their utilization in various energy harvesting systems.

In a new study published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Energy Chemistry by researchers from the Centro de Investigación en Materiales Avanzados S.C. in Mexico: Dr. M. Edith Navarro-Segura, Dr. Margarita Sánchez-Domínguez, Ana Arizmendi-Morquecho and Dr. Jaime Alvarez-Quintana introduced a novel design for nanostructured triboelectric nanogenerators using Ag octahedral-based electrodes. The researchers focused on improving charge collection and overall device performance. In this research, instead to increase the effective contact area between triboelectric surfaces as former works, nanostructured electrodes were designed to increase the contact surface area between the electrode/dielectric interfaces, resulting in a higher number of intrinsic interface states and enhanced charge transfer capabilities.

The proposed device in the study consisted of two triboelectric plates with flexible polyethylene terephthalate/indium tin oxide substrates shaped like arches. One plate was coated with a layer of acetate, while the other had a layer of Polytetrafluoroethylene. These materials exhibited negative and positive static cling, respectively. When a contact-separation action occurred between the two surfaces, electrons were exchanged, leading to one surface becoming negatively charged and the other positively charged. The transferred charge was then collected by charge-collecting layers for external load utilization.

To fabricate the contact layers for the triboelectric nanogenerator device, the research team utilized spin-coating techniques with Polytetrafluoroethylene and acetate solutions. They adorned the contact layers with Ag octahedral nano-assemblies synthesized electrochemically using mesquite gum as a reducing agent. Various characterization techniques such as field emission scanning electron microscopy, Grazing incidence X-ray diffraction, transmission electron microscopy, and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy were employed to analyze the morphology, structure, composition, and elemental analysis of the contact layers decorated with Ag octahedral nano-assemblies.

The performance of the TENGs was evaluated by measuring their electrical output characteristics using digital oscilloscopes, while mechanical vibrations were applied using a custom laboratory system. These measurements provided insights into the performance of the TENG device and the efficacy of the nanostructured contacts in enhancing charge collection and transfer capabilities.

The researchers compared the electrical output performance of the TENGs under various conditions. They observed that as the excitation frequency increased, the TENGs’ output voltage also increased, showing an asymptotic trend with a significant rise from 1 Hz to 9 Hz and a slight increase beyond 9 Hz. Irrespective of the frequency, TENGs with nanostructured contacts exhibited higher output voltages compared to those with non-nanostructured contacts. Further analysis of the TENGs’ performance was conducted by examining the output voltage, current, and power at different load resistances. The output power demonstrated a Gaussian distribution with a peak at a specific load resistance. TENGs with nanostructured contacts showed enhanced output performance. The effects of frequency on the output voltage and power of TENGs were investigated, revealing that higher frequencies led to increased open circuit voltage and maximum power. The study successfully demonstrated the ability of TENGs to power low-power electronic devices, highlighting their potential as power supply devices.

In conclusion, the authors successfully showcased the utilization of nanostructured Ag octahedral-based electrodes to enhance the electrical output performance of TENGs. By increasing the contact surface area between the electrode/dielectric interfaces through nanostructuring, the number of intrinsic interface states and charge transfer capabilities were significantly improved. The TENGs with nanostructured contacts outperformed devices with non-nanostructured contacts in terms of output voltage, current, and power. The excitation frequency and load resistance played crucial roles in determining the output characteristics of the TENGs. The research laid a promising foundation for the advancement of TENG technology and its potential implementation in energy harvesting systems.

Powering the Future: Nanostructured Triboelectric Nanogenerators Revolutionize Energy Harvesting - Advances in Engineering

About the author

Dr. María Edith Navarro-Segura received her B.Sc. in nanotechnology engineering from Universidad de La Ciénega del Estado de Michoacán de Ocampo, México in 2015. She joined Professor Margarita Sanchez’s research group at the Advanced Materials Research Center-CIMAV S.C., Monterrey, México in 2016, working on nanomaterials and nanostructures synthesis., Next, she obtained her M.Sc. in Materials Science from CIMAV S.C., in 2018 working with polyhedral Ag and Au nanoframes by electrochemical growth and their application as SERS substrates. Likewise, she received the Ph.D. in Materials Science from CIMAV S.C. in 2023 focusing on the development of SERS substrates based on plasmonic nanostructures and their applications in biosensing and energy.

About the author

Prof. Margarita Sánchez-Dominguez has a B.Sc. in Industrial Chemistry from Autonomous University of Nuevo Leon (México). She received her Ph.D. from University of Bristol in 2004. She was a postdoctoral fellow at Institute Charles Sadron  (Strasbourg, 2004-2006) and Institute of Advanced Chemistry of Catalonia (Barcelona, 2006-2010). She joined the Advanced Materials Research Center-CIMAV in Monterrey, México as a full time research professor in 2010. Her current research interests include the development of plasmonic and metal oxide hierarchical superstructures synthesized by soft chemical methods (bicontinuous microemulsions, electrodeposition, etc) and their use as electrocatalysts, electrochemical sensors and surface enhanced raman scattering substrates.

About the author

Prof. Ana Arizmendi has a BSc degree in Materials Engineering from Technological Institute of Saltillo, Mexico. She concluded her MSc degree in Metallurgical Engineering Sciences and Doctorate degree in Sciences in Metallurgical and Ceramic Engineering at CINVESTAV-IPN, Mexico. After graduating, her main experience in the industry was as product innovation researcher at an automotive company. Since 2008 she has been working at Advanced Materials Research Center (CIMAV) in Monterrey, México as a full-time researcher. Her research interest is development and characterization of metal matrix nanocomposites and nanostructured coatings for SERS based sensors and energy management applications.

About the author

Prof. Jaime Alvarez received the Ph.D. in Materials Physics from Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona in 2009 working on heat transfer phenomena at nanoscale. From 2009 to date, he joined the Advanced Materials Research Center -CIMAV in Monterrey, México, where he is currently doing research on a variety of topics related to materials and devices for residual energy harvesting, as well as thermal transport at nanoscale with applications to thermoelectrics and solid state thermal devices. In 2013, Prof. Alvarez was pioneering on proponing phase-change materials for solid state thermal rectification devices. Consequently, because of his contributions to the field, he has been recognized as featured author. Recently, in 2022 he received the National Award in Energy Innovation given by the National Energy Cluster.


M. Edith Navarro-Segura, Margarita Sánchez-Domínguez, Ana Arizmendi-Morquecho, J. Alvarez-Quintana. Triboelectric nanogenerator based on electrodeposited Ag octahedral nano-assemblies. Journal of Energy Chemistry, Volume 83, 2023, Pages 478-495.

Go To Journal of Energy Chemistry

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