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Review Article | Open Access

Bio-inspired water-driven electricity generators: From fundamental mechanisms to practical applications

Kaiqiang Wang1,2Wanghuai Xu1Wei Zhang1Xiong Wang1Xiao Yang1,4Jianfeng Li2Hanli Zhang2Jinjin Li2Zuankai Wang1,3,4( )
Department of Mechanical Engineering, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong 999077, China
State Key Laboratory of Tribology in Advanced Equipment, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China
Centre for Nautre-Inspired Engineering, Hong Kong 999077, China
Hong Kong Centre for Cerebro-Caradiovasular Health Engineering (COCHE), Hong Kong 999077, China
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Graphical Abstract


Harvesting water energy in various forms of water motion, such as evaporation, raindrops, river flows, ocean waves, and other, is promising to relieve the global energy crisis and reach the aim of carbon neutrality. However, this highly decentralized and distributed water energy poses a challenge on conventional electromagnetic hydropower technologies that feature centralization and scalization. Recently, this problem has been gradually addressed by the emergence of a myriad of electricity generators that take inspiration from natural living organisms, which have the capability to efficiently process and manage water and energy for survival in the natural competition. Imitating the liquid–solid behaviors manifested in ubiquitous biological processes, these generators allow for the efficient energy conversion from water–solid interaction into the charge transfer or electrical output under natural driving, such as gravity and solar power. However, in spite of the rapid development of the field, a fundamental understanding of these generators and their ability to bridge the gap between the fundamentals and the practical applications remains elusive. In this review, we first introduce the latest progress in the fundamental understanding in bio-inspired electricity generators that allow for efficient harvesting water energy in various forms, ranging from water evaporation, droplet to wave or flow, and then summarize the development of the engineering design of the various bio-inspired electricity generator in the practical applications, including self-powered sensor and wearable electronics. Finally, the prospects and urgent problems, such as how to achieve large-scale electricity generation, are presented.



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Nano Research Energy
Article number: e9120042
Cite this article:
Wang K, Xu W, Zhang W, et al. Bio-inspired water-driven electricity generators: From fundamental mechanisms to practical applications. Nano Research Energy, 2023, 2: e9120042.










Received: 14 September 2022
Revised: 01 November 2022
Accepted: 01 November 2022
Published: 30 November 2022
© The Author(s) 2023. Published by Tsinghua University Press.

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