Recovering dissipated mechanical energy and harvesting thermal energy available in the environment, transforming them into electric current, is the idea at the basis of the project Electro-Intrusion. 

Electro-Intrusion represents a modern version of the philosopher’s stone: instead of transforming lead into gold, we aim at transforming low-quality energy into electrical power. This will be achieved by creating a low-cost, environmentally-friendly device will allow to produce clean energy to move a step forward towards a carbon-neutral future. 

Electro-Intrusion is funded by the European Commission under the H2020 Future and Emerging Technology programme, focusing on “Breakthrough zero-emissions energy storage and conversion technologies for carbon-neutrality”.

The project

The Electro-Intrusion project aims at developing a vanguard device to recovering wasted vibrational energy and while harvesting environmental thermal energy and convert both into electricity with an unprecedented efficiency. To achieve this goal we will exploit the properties of non-wettable materials presenting nanopores that under high pressure produced by mechanical vibrations get reversibly intruded by the liquid, while harvesting heat from the environment and getting electrified (triboelectrification). 

The project plans to:

  • Investigating the challenging and poorly understood phenomenon of nanotriboelectrification, which produces electric current from the contact or sliding of a liquid on a solid. Understanding the fundamental aspects of this phenomenon will allow to maximise the electric output.
  • Identifying the characteristics of liquids and porous solids controlling the thermal balance, the heat input/output along intrusion/extrusion, so as to maximize it.
  • Push the boundaries of current technologies achieving a mechanical-to-electrical conversion efficiency higher than 100%, i.e., producing more than 1 electric energy unit per unic of mechanical energy (vibrations) used to trigger intrusion/extrusion.
  • Lay the foundation for the industrial use of this technology by creating a prototype of the device, namely regenerative shock-absorbers.
  • Integrate, validate and test regenerative shock-absorbers in a real electric vehicle.

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That electric current can be generated along intrusion/extrusion of a liquid thought a porous material is a breakthrough recently discovered by members of the Electro-Intrusion consortium. Until very recently, the fate of the dissipated energy during this process was not known. Now, thanks to this enormous leap forward, we know that this energy is transformed into electricity though nanotriboelectrification. In practice, vibrations act on a piston pushing a liquid, which intrudes/extrudes a non-wetting porous solid. By sliding over the solid, the liquid produces the electrification of the solid. Accumulation of charges at the solid surface and in the liquid produces a difference of potential between the two phases, which induces an electric current. More in detail:

  • Firstly, vibrations, through a suitable apparatus, e.g., a piston, produce an oscillating variation of pressure on a liquid, which forces its intrusion/extrusion in/out of non-wettable porous material. For selected materials and liquids, the intrusion process is endothermic: it absorbs heat from the environment. This enables to literally harvest thermal energy from the surroundings.
  • Secondly, the sliding of the liquid within the material’s pores results in an accumulation of charges of opposite sign at their interface: the triboelectric effect. Triboelectrification, though a process that has still to be clarified, possibly analogous to the one at the basis of triboelectric nanogenerators (TENG), produces an electric current to be used to produce useful work, e.g., recharge the battery of an electric vehicle.

How much electric energy can be produced by the process described above? An intuitive answer would be the mechanical energy of vibrations. However, if intrusion/extrusion is overall endothermic, i.e., if the process occurs by a net flux of heat from the environment, the pool of energy to be transformed into electricity is higher, leading to a mechanical-to-electrical energy conversion ratio larger than 1, guaranteeing an unprecedented efficiency of more than 100%. Theoretical and experimental studies during the first phase of the project will identify the key factors to maximize the electricity production.


The new paradigm for energy conversion offered by Electro-Intrusion could interest a wide range of applications: cars, trains, aircrafts, steam turbines, home appliances, potentially any machinery producing vibrations. 

Since cars and trucks dissipate a huge amount of energy in vibrations, in Electro-Intrusion we focus on the automotive sector, in particular on developing regenerative shock-absorbers. In fact, by just implementing regenerative shock-absorbers on just city cars, the European Environment Agency data estimated a decrease in the overall  energy consumption by 4% by 2050, which would bring to a decrease in fuel consumption by around 9%.

Electro-Intrusion, introducing a novel technology which promises to open new business opportunities, has potentially a high societal impact, the development and fabrication of triboelectric regenerative devices requiring new qualified workers for advanced materials design and production. New markets of regenerative devices will flourish, giving a leading innovation capacity to small and medium European enterprises.The benefits of new businesses, more dynamic markets are foreseen to go hand in hand with a more efficient energy consumption, reducing the overall impact on the environment, representing a step forward toward the fulfillment of the European Green Deal objectives.

Planning and Implementation

Several Deliverables are expected to be released during the project. Here are published those that can be disclosed:

D6.1 Communication, Dissemination and Exploitation Plan

D6.2 Website, visual identity and SM presence

D6.4 Cross-project collaboration plan-UniFe