Static electricity is all around us, from the tiny shocks you get from taking off your shirt on a dry day [about 20kV] to electrical storms that generate lightning bolts [around 1GV]. Triboelectric devices can harness that energy, even from wave power.
The phenomenon has been studied since about 600BC, when it was discovered that different materials reacted in different ways to friction. On a dry day, just walking can generate enough static electricity to turn long hair to frizz and and make your pants crawl up your leg. If there was only a way to harness that energy.
Actually, researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a triboelectric [most static electricity is triboelectricity] device that can charge a mobile telephone just by using the friction generated from walking. The only problem is, triboelectric devices, relying on static electricity, generated by friction, practically die off when it is humid.
Conventional wisdom would rule out triboelectric devices as wave-power generators, since the ocean is wet, but GIT researchers were able to find the right combination of materials that would generate triboelectricity in seawater. The prototype device actually dips into the water and then is pulled out.
When the water falls off the hydrophobic pyramid-shaped material, it generates a charge. If such a device can be successfully scaled and deployed large-scale, it can generate electricity from the ocean waves. Wave power on a smaller scale could be an effective source of electricity, since the ocean is practically never still. It could also generate electricity when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow, a limitation of traditional off-shore renewable-energy installations. Additionally, wave power projects can be deployed at sea, where they are out of sight.
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