The energy-harvesting flooring uses wood with a combination of a silicone coating and nanocrystals, which produces enough energy to power LED bulbs and small electronics. (Image credit: ETH Zurich)


Scientists from ETH Zurich’s Wood Materials Science Center have developed wood-based flooring capable of generating enough energy to power LED bulbs and small electronics. The flooring uses wooden panels with a combination of a silicone coating and nanocrystals to produce a nanogenerator. The wood panels become electrically charged during contact and separation when stepped on via a phenomenon known as the triboelectric effect. That effect is a type of contact electrification where materials become electrically charged after separating from other materials in contact.


When a material is tribo-positive, it loses its electrons and if its tribo-negative, it attracts those electrons. And while wood is terrible triboelectric material, it’s excellent as a building material. To boost wood’s triboelectric effect, the scientists coated a panel with standard silicone that attracts electrons upon contact and placed nanocrystals on the other panel, which loses electrons. When stepped on, the materials flex and contract, producing energy as a piezoelectric generator.



While nearly any wood can be used to create a nanocrystal generator, the scientists found that spruce generated 80-times more electricity than others and is widely used as a building material. The wood flooring prototype used a surface area slightly smaller than an A4 piece of paper, which produced enough power to illuminate those LED bulbs and operate a small calculator as people walked over its surface. The scientists state that the wood flooring could be used for high-end building applications, home automation, powering IoT devices, and sustainable power supplies.


Would walking on this floor be like walking on a trampoline in a slight way? In other words, walking on this floor could be more tiring?


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