Skip to main content

This wooden smart home sensor doesn’t need batteries

Researchers at the Beijing Institute of Nanoenergy and Nanosystems have developed a means of creating a wood-based triboelectric self-powered smart home sensor. Basically, it can harness the energy you use to press a button or step on the ground to send wireless signals around the house. With this system, a layer of wood has a thin copper film applied to the underside, which makes contact with a non-stick layer beneath when pressed, and generates an electric charge. That charge can then be used to power a sensor and emit a signal.

The strength of that charge depends on the overall surface area but can be high enough to communicate your position on a floor peppered with sensors below the surface. This use case alone presents some interesting options. Smart lights could light up as soon as your footsteps are sensed in the area, or falling down could trip multiple sensors and fire an emergency alert.

A diagram explaining how remote sensors around the smart home would work.
Beijing Institute of Nanoenergy and Nanosystems

This technology could be applied to switches as well. Smart lights regularly have mechanical switches for those times you don’t want to dig around in your mobile app. With a triboelectric layout applied, these switches could be able to talk to your low-power network without needing a battery or being wired directly into your home’s electrical system. That switch will also look pretty dang nice if it’s made of wood.

We’ve bumped into similar concepts in the past. The challenges of developing a significant charge using wood as a primary material are high. Wood isn’t great at conducting electricity, so it needs a fair bit of treatment to be useful in smart home applications. Considering how little power these devices generate, we won’t be charging our phones just by walking on our floors anytime soon. However, being able to remove the need for batteries to be included in low-power devices such as smart home sensors could save on manufacturing costs and their environmental footprint. Being able to rely on wood as a smart building material also reduces the number of plastics used in the home. It takes time for these projects to graduate from the lab to the marketplace, but we’re eager to see it happen.

Simon Sage
Simon has been publishing in tech since before the first iPhone was released. When he's not busy lighting a candle for the…
Ecovacs Deebot X2 Combo vs. Ecovacs Deebot T30S Combo: Which is the better robot vacuum?
The Ecovacs X2 Combo installed in a home.

Ecovacs has launched two "Combo" products this year that bundle together a robot vacuum with a secondary handheld vacuum. Each is a great all-in-one solution to keeping your home clean, as they let you tackle not just floors, but also furniture, stairs, blinds, and other areas that might accumulate dust. The Ecovacs Deebot X2 Combo was the first to hit the market, though the Ecovacs Deebot T30S Combo arrived shortly after.

But what's the difference between the Ecovacs X2 Combo and Ecovacs T30S Combo? And which is better for your home? Here's a closer look at these similarly named robots to help you decide which to purchase.
Pricing and availability

Read more
Ecovacs Deebot X2 Combo vs. Dreame X40 Ultra: Which robot vacuum is best for your smart home?
The Ecovacs X2 Combo installed in a home.

The Dreame X40 Ultra and Ecovacs Deebot X2 Combo are both well-rounded robot vacuums. They bring heaps of functionality to your home, including self-cleaning docks, robots that can both mop and clean in a single run, and luxurious designs that blend with most home décor. All that doesn't come cheap, and you'll be spending well over $1,000 to get your hands on either robot. That means you'll want to carefully weigh your options before making such a hefty investment.

From vacuuming and mopping performance to pricing and additional features, here's a look at the Ecovacs Deebot X2 Combo and Dreame X40 Ultra to help you decide which is best for your home.
Pricing and availability

Read more
Is a smart air purifier a wise investment?
Coway Airmega IconS True HEPA air purifier in home

Spring is in full swing, and much of the population has officially succumbed to the sniffling and sneezing associated with seasonal allergies. that makes now a great time to consider picking up an air purifier, as they're shown to do wonders for air quality. Along with handling dander from pets, they'll also eliminate pollen and other allergens that may wander through your doors and windows. Air purifiers are incredibly popular -- and smart air purifiers are finally starting to catch up.

But should you invest in a smart air purifier, or are you better off with a traditional one? Here's a look at these unique gadgets to help you decide if one is right for your home.
What is a smart air purifier?

Read more