Ryan Walden

PhD. Researcher at IT Sligo

Department of Environmental Science

Nanotechnology and Bio-engineering Research Division

Research Topic

“2D Nanomaterial composites for Triboelectric Nanogenerators”

Ryan graduated in 2019 with a 2:1 Bachelors of Honours degree in “Forensic Science and Analysis” from Sligo IT.

His final year project was titled “Forensic Analysis of Wine”, focusing on elemental analysis of wine samples in order to “fingerprint” them to their country of origin, to combat fraudulent wine.

Following his time in Sligo IT, Ryan worked as a Quality Control Analyst for TopChem Pharmaceuticals for a 15-month period, finishing to start his PhD.  While working in TopChem Ryan was tasked with carrying out routine release testing of raw materials, API’s and Intermediates, while maintaining GMP standards. He was involved with all activities associated with the analytical method, process validation and instrument calibrations. Ryan’s experience includes Spectroscopy (GFFAS, FTIR), Chromatography (GC, Advanced HPLC), Advanced Chemical Analysis and Reporting. Ryan was also tasked with being the Environmental Health and Safety officer for the lab.

Research Background:

The base of my research will be focused on synthesising a new polymer that will optimise the output of wearable Triboelectric Nanogenerators (TENGs).

A TENG is a small electrical generator that converts mechanical energy (human motion, vibration, etc) into electrical energy by coupling the triboelectric effect and electrostatic induction. Explained briefly; two materials, of opposite charges, are forced together through mechanical force. While together electrons move from the negative material's surface to the positive material's surface. When these materials are separated, again by a mechanical force, the electrons are left abandoned on the surface of the positive material, creating a potential drop. This potential drop drives the electrons to flow between the two electrons connected to each of the materials, creating an electrical output.

Figure 1: Diagram showing the basic structure of a Triboelectric Nanogenerator. (Kim et al, 2020)

TENGs have a wide range of uses from optimising ocean and wind energy, to self-powered sensors. The goal is to eventually incorporate TENGs into clothes by weaving them into fabrics. The clothes then while worn and used will generate power simply through the movement of the wearer. This power will either be stored, to be used later or used to power wearable devices such as smartwatches.

For TENG's to be incorporated in such a way, however, they must be small enough to not hinder the user, durable and robust enough to deal with different environments and powerful enough to be useful.  This is where the materials in which they are made come into effect. The material must-have properties and qualities of both a wearable fabric such as flexibility, durability and washability, while also maintaining the properties and qualities which are needed for TENG operation such as high triboelectric values, resistance or conductibility and its dielectric constant.

To optimise the power output of a TENG, materials which possess all of these qualities and more need to be used. Ryan aims to create a polymer that optimises all these qualities.

Research Supervisor: Prof. Suresh C. Pillai.