Apparently, the Matrix was right. In the future, we all become batteries. The first step to our eventual demise is a research study conducted by Peking University in Beijing, which found that the human body can be used as an electrode to charge a mobile phone.
“At present, the generator is more suitable for low-power devices,” said research co-author Haixia Zhang in an interview with Phys.org. “In future plans, we hope it can be used as a back-up power source for portable electronics.”
The research team substituted a grounded electrode (an electrode is basically something that conducts electricity) with a “body contact electrode.” The body contact electrode becomes active when the palm or the fingers come into contact with the back side or border of a phone covered with STEG (Single Friction Surface Triboelectric Generator). While the term triboelectric may sound intimidating, it really just means that an electric charge can be produced when materials are rubbed against each other. Static electricity is an example of the triboelectric effect.
Researchers found that electrons were exchanged between the skin and the STEG material when subjects patted the phone with a palm or tapped it with a finger. They also recorded an increase in the output current with the body contact electrode compared to the grounded electrode.
The researchers are still grappling with obstacles for designing a generator that harvests electricity more efficiently. However, they see more applications in STEG devices, such as implanted devices and sensors.