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'Tribo-electric,' the buzzword of the future?

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It is an alluring goal of clean, reliable power free from geo-political risks—and scientists in the United States said Tuesday it lies within reach, thanks to a smart way to harvest energy called tribo-electricity.

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology said they had built a simple prototype device that converts stop-start movement into power.

Waves, walking and dancing—even rainfall, computer keys or urban traffic—could one day be harnessed to drive sensors, mobile gadgets or even electricity plants, they contend.

Zhong Lin Wang, a professor of materials science and engineering, described the invention a "breakthrough."

"Our technology can be used for large-scale energy harvesting, so that the energy we have wasted for centuries will be useful," he told AFP by email.

"Tribo-electric" is a modern term with ancient roots—from the Greek word for "rub."

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