Major breakthroughs in technology, renewable energy coming from UW-Madison


Some Madison-area researchers and working to gain the attention and financial backing of Bill Gates for their ideas in renewable energy technologies.

Gates is the founder of Microsoft and a philanthropist leading Breakthrough Energy Ventures, to finance new energy technology. Researchers at UW-Madison have been studying and testing concepts for months now, and publishing results in journals.

A team out of UW-Madison, led by Xudong Wang has shown promising results for technology that uses a floorboard with electrodes that are able to harness a variant of static electricity.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports

The nanotechnology researcher has come up with a new way to produce energy: from the friction created by walking on a special kind of floor.

This renewable energy source comes from trees, specifically from wood pulp, a byproduct of the paper-making process.

His research focuses on something called roadside energy harvesting, which refers to the energy that occurs when a car tire moves along a road or people walk on a street.

“That energy actually is pretty significant, with energy density that is comparable to solar energy on a cloudy day,” said Wang.

Wang’s technology is truly made in Wisconsin, because it’s a collaboration with the Forest Products Laboratory and uses as its key ingredient a waste source from the pulp and paper industry.

“It’s natural, recyclable and degradable,” he said.

The basic principle is to have two different materials, one that makes an electron more attractive and another that is more electron-repulsive. Then if the two materials shift, the electron goes back and forth through an external circuit to generate electricity, he said.

For more on these technologies, visit Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


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