Innovation That Matters

Sound device

Scientists create paper-thin device that turns flags into loudspeakers

Work & Lifestyle

The flexible device generates energy from human movement and could lead to the creation of voice-activated security patches for computers and talking newspapers.

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Scientists at Michigan State University (MSU) have created a paper-thin, flexible device that, when integrated, can turn a flag into a loudspeaker by generating energy from human movement. The ferroelectret nanogenerator known as FENG debuted in late 2016, when its creators demonstrated its abilities by using it to power a keyboard, LED light and an LCD touchscreen.

The process of creating the FENG starts with a silicone wafer, which is fabricated with several thin sheets of environmentally friendly substances such as silver, polyimide and polypropylene ferroelectret. Ions are added so that each layer in the device contains charged particles. Electrical energy is created when the device is compressed by human motion, or mechanical energy. The National Science Foundation funds the research.

The new breakthrough means the material can act as a microphone by capturing vibrations from sound and converting it to electrical energy, or a loudspeaker by using the opposite method of converting electrical energy to mechanical energy. To demonstrate the latter, the FENG fabric was embedded into a flag and music was piped from an iPad through an amplifier and into the flag, which reproduced the sound perfectly.

There are many state-of-the-art creations that make everyday objects multi functional, such as a leather-bound book that transforms into multipurpose furniture, and public urinals in Paris that turn urine into fertilizer. What is there a gap in the market for as an item with potential multiple uses?




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