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Sumitomo's concept tire harnesses friction to generate electricity
Nick Lavars

Capturing some of the energy in and around the wheels of a car as it travels down the road is an interesting idea, and one we've seen addressed by big tire makers before, such as Goodyear's BH03 concept back in 2015. Japan's Sumitomo Rubber is throwing another possibility out there, with a tire design that would leverage friction down below to produce electricity for the vehicle's onboard accessories.

The energy-harvesting tire concept was dreamt up together with researchers from Japan's Kansai University, with the system consisting of a regular car tire and a special energy harvesting device planted inside it.

Within that device are two layers of rubber each covered in an electrode, along with a negatively charged film that interfaces with a positively charged film. As the tire rolls across the ground and its footprint deforms, it generates a form of static electricity known as frictional charging.

The device converts this into electricity that could conceivably be used to power certain accessories, like dashboard lights or a radio, for example. And it's not beyond the realms of possibility. Back in 2015 we looked at a research group from the University of Wisconsin-Madison working on a similar technology, which was able to harness tire friction to power headlights on a toy Jeep.

There's no word yet of commercializing this technology, but Sumimoto imagines initially it could be used to power things like tire pressure monitors. It has the backing of the Japan Science and Technology Agency and will continue developing the tech in the hope that it can also be expanded to power other devices.

Source: Sumimoto Rubber



Nick has been writing and editing at New Atlas for over five years, where he has covered everything from distant space probes to self-driving cars to oddball animal science, and everything in between. He previously spent time at The Conversation, Mashable and The Santiago Times, earning a Masters degree in communications from Melbourne’s RMIT University along the way. When not tapping away at his desk, you might find him traveling the world in search of the weird and wonderful. Failing that, he’ll probably be watching sport.

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