NEWS: Packaging That Can Power Itself


Two researchers are studying how to create smart packaging that converts the bumps and friction that packages encounter in the distribution environment into energy that can power sensors to monitor products in transit.

The packaging would use a type of triboelectric energy harvester - a device that converts mechanical energy into electrical energy - consisting of two corrugated boards, one with a metalized film attached and the other with a Teflon polymer film attached. When in contact with each other, the boards would generate a voltage difference that can be harvested.

Gregory Batt, an assistant professor in the food, nutrition and packaging sciences department and director of the Clemson Transport Package Testing Laboratory, and James Gibert, a Clemson alumnus and assistant professor at in the School of Mechanical Engineering at Purdue University, received a $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study triboelectric generators.

Triboelectric energy harvesters convert mechanical energy to electrical energy, which is collected and used to charge rechargeable energy cells to power small electronic devices. The aim is to develop technology for smart packaging and powering sensors to enable monitoring of products in transit. It focuses on developing smart packages that can harvest their own power.

“The packaging industry is transforming,” Batt said. “The demand for and application of smart packaging devices used during the transport and storage of products continues to increase. Most of these devices require power. Development of an energy harvesting device that can harvest power from forces naturally occurring in the distribution environment, while possibly mitigating those forces experienced by the product,  just makes sense.”

“This study has far-reaching implications in powering devices in the hyper-connected world known as the internet of things,” Gibert said. “Here you will have devices that communicate with each other autonomously and will be able to sense both their environment as well as detect if they are operating properly.”