Research Press Release

Technology: A ‘smart’, self-powered table tennis table

Nature Communications

November 27, 2019

A ‘smart’ table tennis table, which uses a detection system powered by the impact of a table tennis ball to measure its velocity, trace its path, and detect edge ball (whether the ball hits the top or side edge of the table), is reported in Nature Communications. The system can provide real-time data to assist athletes in training, and referees in decision making.

Currently, real-time acquisition of sports-related data generally relies on widely distributed sensors that are powered by batteries. These have a limited lifetime, high replacement or recharging costs, and present environmental issues on disposal. However, triboelectric nanogenerators can directly convert mechanical stimuli into electrical signals, and have been used as self-powered pressure sensors.

Zhong Lin Wang and colleagues developed a wood-based triboelectric sensor for use in a ‘smart’ table tennis table. The energy from the impact of a table tennis ball is harvested to power a battery-free falling point distribution statistical system and an edge ball judgement system. The authors show that the system can collect data and display real-time statistics for impact position, velocity, and motion-path tracing. Sensors were also strategically placed to distinguish between two kinds of edge balls: side edge ball and top edge ball.

The authors suggest that the work could lead to opportunities in athletic analytics and open up new avenues for wood-based electronics combined with self-powered systems.


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