This durability and resilience are key reasons why silicone films can be used in what is known as energy harvesting. Silicone-Based Electroactive Polymers for Energy Generation is a joint research project in which a consortium of four industrial companies and two universities under the direction of Robert Bosch GmbH is working to develop wave power generators. In this context, researchers at Darmstadt Technical University created a preliminary model of a wave power plant resembling a buoy: whose upper half floats on the surface of the water while its lower half is anchored to the sea floor. The two halves are joined together by a stack of thousands of conductively coated silicone films which change shape at intervals of three to ten seconds in response to the motion of the waves. A positively charged electrode is mounted above the highly insulating silicone, and a negatively charged electrode below it. The action of the waves first compresses the silicone and then relaxes it again. As the water level rises and falls, the two electrodes above and below the silicone elastomer move toward one another and then apart. As soon as the silicone film has relaxed and recovered its thickness, the two electrodes, and therefore their charges, move apart - and the electrical energy in the converter is increased. This produces the desired outcome of converting the mechanical energy from the wave into electrical energy. “The electrical currents in the individual layers are cumulative,” explains Dr. Istvan Denes of Central Research at Bosch, who heads the project.
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