As far as car accessories go, we have to admit this one looks pretty silly. But the Samsung scientists who made it could also be onto something. The flapping tongues inside are actually coated with gold, and when they rub up against a smooth plate, electricity is created through something called the triboelectric effect. It could be a whole new way to harness wind energy.

If the triboelectric effect sounds like something fancy, it's actually not. Remembering rubbing a balloon on your sweater and having it stick to the wall? Electrons jumped from one material to the other, and a similar thing happens between the two surfaces covered in gold and PTFE tape, which is made from the same chemical as Teflon. With two charged surfaces, an electric current can flow through.

In a new study published in Nature Communications, scientists recreated a prototype triboelectric generator that fits on top of a car. At windspeeds of 34 mph, the device generated a voltage of 200 V and a current of 60 microamps.

But is this really the best use for a triboelectric generator? A flappy thing on top of your car is only going to create drag, and your car can already convert gasoline to electricity, thank you very much. It's better to think of this device as a proof of principle. The scientists also created a second triboelectric device (left) that generates electricity by spinning in the wind. Wherever there is friction, we might someday get electricity. [Nature Communications via Txchnologist]


Images courtesy of Park et al