Scientists have developed liquid metal-based self-oscillating heterogeneous film materials

With the miniaturization of electronic devices and the integration of flexible wearable devices, the research of harvesting energy from the surrounding environment to power wearable electronic products with low power consumption has attracted much attention. Natural evaporation of lakes and sea surfaces, plant transpiration and respiration, and moisture are ubiquitous in the atmosphere. In recent years, researchers have analyzed nanomaterials (such as carbon nanomaterials, biomass nanomaterials, and metal oxides) that collect electricity from environmental moisture to provide sustainable energy for flexible wearable electronic devices.

The high-end materials manufacturing group research group led by Li Zhaoxu, a researcher at the Green Reaction Separation and Process Enhancement Technology Center of Qingdao Institute of Bioenergy and Process Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, proposed to use natural polysaccharides (sodium alginate) as surfactants, analyzed the interface mechanism between LM and MXene, solved the compatibility problem, and constructed the coating structure of MXene/LM micro-nano droplets. Solvent evaporation induced LM micro-nano droplet sintering is realized. It was found that the capillary effect generated by the evaporation of alginate dispersed LM nanodroplets and MXene’s mixed water dispersion could promote the fusion and sintering of LM nanodroplets settled by gravity at the bottom layer to construct MXene/LM heterogeneous membranes. Further, it was found that the film has spontaneous continuous braking ability under humidity gradient (drive speed of 260 °s-1, self-oscillation time greater than 3×104 s). This study reveals that the difference in moisture absorption volume on both sides of the film is the intrinsic mechanism of self-continuous actuation under humidity gradient. When the researchers placed the film in a permanent magnet magnetic field with a strength of 0.5T, the self-oscillating mechanical energy of the film can generate an alternating current of up to 1360μA m-2 in the outer loop. In this study, the highly conductive self-oscillating actuator constructed by regulating the interface recombination mechanism collects energy in a humid environment and supplies energy to microelectronic devices, which can be used for energy conversion and harvesting in a humid environment. This technology overcomes the problem that the wet gas power generation process is unsustainable, is conducive to promoting the development of smart materials such as self-continuous oscillating films, and is expected to promote the research and development of biopolymers as energy harvesting materials.

Schematic diagram of the preparation, structure and energy harvesting function of self-sustaining oscillating thin film materials driven by moisture gradient.

The research was published in Advanced Functional Materials. The research work has been supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the “Taishan Scholar” Program of Shandong Province, the Natural Science Foundation of Shandong Province, the Youth Innovation Promotion Association of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the Qingdao Energy Institute/Shandong Energy Research Institute Research and Innovation Fund. (Source: Qingdao Institute of Bioenergy and Bioprocess, Chinese Academy of Sciences)

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