What if one day in the future you decide to install artificial grass and not only does it save you both money and water but it also generates renewable energy to power your house? Such a notion may sound preposterous but researchers at China’s Southwest Jiaotong University and the Georgia Institute of Technology believe it may not only be possible but also incredibly practical.
In the December, 2015 issue of the scientific journal Advanced Materials, the researchers published a paper describing how individual blades of artificial grass could be created to act as miniature wind turbines that, when working in conjunction with thousands of others, could generate nearly enough power to run an entire home.
In the paper, researchers recounted their experiment in which they tested “a ﬂexible and transparent TENG (triboelectric nanogenerator) to harvest energy from natural wind at arbitrary wind blowing direction. Reliance on the vertically free-standing polymer strips, which consist of indium tin oxide (ITO) coated polyethylene terephthalate (PET) thin ﬁlm, the laminar TENGs array holds a kelp forest morphology and each single strip could sway independently to cause a contact-separation when the natural wind passes by.”
Don’t feel bad if that doesn’t make any sense to you. The good folks at Science Alert put it into laymen’s terms.
“One side of each blade is coated with nanowires while the other is coated with indium tin oxide. As the wind brushes the blades, they come into contact with each other, allowing electrons to pass from one piece of grass to the next and generating an electric current as a result.”
In other words, when these specially-engineered blades of grass billow in the breeze, each time they contact their neighbor they generate a little bit of electricity. Multiply that by the millions of blades of grass in a yard and suddenly you’re generating quite a lot of electricity.
The research suggests that a 3,200 square-foot field of artificial grass could generate more than 7 kilowatts of electricity. Such technology is still in its infancy but the research shows promise. And maybe in a decade or two, instead of solar panels we’ll be installing artificial grass on our rooftops as well as our yards.