PerspectiveMaterials Science

Water-Responsive Polymer Composites on the Move

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Science  11 Jan 2013:
Vol. 339, Issue 6116, pp. 150-151
DOI: 10.1126/science.1232733

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As the power consumption of electronic devices continues to decrease, the amount of energy harvested from the ambient environment can be enough to drive functional circuitry. Harvesting such energy may be particularly advantageous in environment sensing and surveillance monitoring. For example, replacing the batteries for a wireless network monitoring hundreds of remote sensors would likely be difficult, and self-sustained systems could reduce maintenance costs. On page 186 of this issue, Ma et al. (1) report that the energy can be harvested from water gradients in the environment (e.g., a wet surface) by means of a specially designed composite film. The potential energy of a moisture gradient can be converted inside the composite actuator and stored as elastic potential energy, and then used to produce mechanical work or to create electricity.