The promising future of triboelectric nanogenerators in marine exploitation

(Nanowerk Spotlight) Triboelectric nanogenerators (TENGs) are rapidly emerging as a cutting-edge technology with the potential to revolutionize the marine industry. As a novel technology that has made significant progress over the past decade, TENGs have been regarded as one of the most efficient methods for harvesting low-frequency ocean energy.
By converting mechanical motion into electrical energy, TENGs enable the harvesting of associated mechanical energy while simultaneously capturing the characteristics of the mechanical motion through corresponding electronic signals.
Researchers have been focusing on improving the output performance of TENG through materials optimization, structural design, and power management, ultimately aiming to promote sustainable development in marine exploitation.
The three main applications of TENGs in marine exploitation include ocean energy harvesting, self-powered ocean monitoring, and self-powered marine electrochemical systems.
A review in Advanced Energy Materials ("Recent Advances in Triboelectric Nanogenerators for Marine Exploitation") highlights the current advances for TENGs in the marine environment.
Summary of TENGs in the marine exploitation. TENGs for the ocean-wave harvesting, ocean sensing and monitoring and self-powered marine electrochemical system. (Reproduced with permission by Wiley-VCH Verlag) (click on image to enlarge)

Ocean Energy Harvesting

Triboelectric nanogenerators have the potential to transform ocean energy harvesting by capturing the power of ocean waves. The TENG system consists of a floating buoy for dynamic wave energy capture, a Power Take-Off (PTO) device for power conversion and output, and a generator for electric energy generation.
To improve ocean energy harvesting, researchers are working on optimizing the floating buoy, which serves as the interface between the ocean wave and the TENG system. The power absorption of the floating buoy is closely related to its geometry, mass, submerged volume, diameter, and resonance bandwidth.
Systematic studies on the structural design and physical parameter optimization of the floating buoy are essential for achieving high ocean energy power absorption rates and all-weather ocean energy harvesting. Moreover, advancements in PTO research are required to adapt to the random variation characteristics of ocean energy direction and realize the effective transformation of omnidirectional power. By designing PTO devices that can achieve resonance control of different frequencies and damping regulation, it will be possible to build large-scale ocean power stations.
Finally, the development of high-performance TENGs with improved electrical output performance, space utilization, and environmental adaptability will be crucial for the advancement of the entire ocean energy harvesting system.

Self-Powered Ocean Monitoring

In the field of ocean monitoring, TENG-based advanced sensors and self-powered sensor network nodes are being widely studied. These sensors offer high sensitivity and self-powered capabilities, making them ideal for constructing an in-situ power supply system at sea by harvesting ocean energy.
Ocean sensing research focuses on developing TENG-based sensors that are stable, multi-functional, and capable of detecting a wide range of parameters in the complex marine environment. To improve the stability and anti-jamming ability of ocean-wave hydrologic sensors, researchers are exploring methods such as lubricating mediums and non-contact structures.
The development of multifunctional and integrated navigation equipment sensors and underwater acoustic sensors with high sensitivity and anti-background noise interference ability is also crucial for self-powered ocean monitoring. Additionally, efficient power management systems are being designed to improve TENG's energy supply capacity and meet the fluctuating demands of the sensor module for stable power supply.

Self-Powered Marine Electrochemical Systems

TENGs have been integrated with electrochemical technologies to create self-powered marine electrochemical systems. These systems not only provide technical support for acquiring ocean energy, information, and resources but also offer a significant method for promoting sustainable development.
The working efficiency of self-powered marine electrochemical systems depends on the size of input electric energy and the form and parameters of output current. Future research in this field will focus on improving the working efficiency of the entire system by studying the form and parameters of input electric energy.
Due to the marine environment's high salinity and corrosive nature, enhancing the integrated stability and marine environmental adaptability of self-powered marine electrochemical systems is a major research priority.
Additionally, the rapid development of corresponding energy storage devices for power management and electrochemical devices for new marine environment applications is necessary to promote TENG's research in this field.

Future Applications

The integration of TENGs in marine exploitation opens up a world of possibilities for sustainable development. Researchers have proposed an integrated floating platform for future applications that combines wind and wave energy harvesting systems with electrochemical devices. The lightweight structure of rotary TENGs for wind energy harvesting ensures the platform's stability, while the wave energy harvesting network maximizes energy efficiency. Moreover, heavy electrochemical devices placed deep underwater can serve as anchors, further enhancing the platform's stability.
This integrated design has the potential to address the challenges of transmitting offshore energy through in-situ energy storage, providing a feasible solution for generating inexpensive hydrogen energy through electrolysis. Furthermore, it could lead to the development of more efficient seawater desalination and classified extraction of seawater salt resources through electrodialysis and TENG technology.


TENGs hold a promising position in the research fields of ocean energy harvesting, ocean sensing, and monitoring, as well as self-powered marine electrochemical systems. It is expected that TENGs will bring about a new technological revolution in these fields, contributing to the construction of ocean power stations, seabed exploration, marine Internet of Things, and marine resources development.
As TENG technology continues to develop towards integration, scale, and diversification, it will undoubtedly play a pivotal role in advancing sustainable marine exploitation and supporting the global strategy for ocean development.
Michael Berger By – Michael is author of three books by the Royal Society of Chemistry:
Nano-Society: Pushing the Boundaries of Technology,
Nanotechnology: The Future is Tiny, and
Nanoengineering: The Skills and Tools Making Technology Invisible
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