Skip to main content
Everyday science

Everyday science

Physics Advent calendar, singing the praises of a student association, low-cost triboelectric generator

25 Nov 2022 Hamish Johnston
Bell experiment
Festive cheer: Santa Claus measuring Bell’s inequality. (Courtesy:

For most Christians, Sunday the 27th of November marks the first day of Advent – which runs until Christmas Eve. Although many traditions have been linked to Advent through the ages, one that has endured into the 21st century is the Advent calendar. Today, this is essentially a daily dispenser of treats such as chocolates, whisky miniatures or cosmetic samples that are hidden behind doors that are usually labelled from 1–24 December.

If you consider physics a treat, then Germany’s University of Göttingen has just the Advent calendar for you. For 10 years now, physicists there have been celebrating Physics in Advent, which delivers a daily video that describes a physics experiment that can be carried out using household materials.

If you sign-up to be sent the videos, you will be invited to answer a question about the experiment. The answer will be revealed the next day and participants will gain points for giving correct answers. Those with the highest scores will be entered into a draw for prizes such as a ride in a hot air balloon; a flight in a glider; or a trip to Dallas, Texas to see an NBA basketball game.

Fun for all ages

You can enter as an individual, a school class or an entire school. While the programme is aimed at children age 11–18, everyone is welcome to have a go. English and German versions of the calendar are available, as are French, Italian and Ukrainian subtitles.

You can register for Physics in Advent here.

This year is the 35th anniversary of the International Association of Physics Students (IAPS). This represents physics students and student societies from around the world and includes more than 90,000 students.

IAPS organizes activities such as conferences, talks, workshops as well as social and outreach events. Next year, the association’s annual conference – the International Conference for Students of Physics – will be held in Baguio and Manila in the Philippines.

To mark the 35th anniversary, the association created a history of the IAPS group, which has recorded a celebration song. Performed in English, it features lines such as “We have grown to a standing of high renown, with ICPS as the jewel in our crown” and “Onwards, forwards into the years to come, international physicists joined as one”.  

The music and arrangement for the song was done by Aleksander Stojcheski and Alexia Beale with lyrics by Beale and Soe Gon Yee Thant, who also did the vocals. You can listen to it here.

Static season

It’s coming to winter here in the northern hemisphere, and for those living in cold, dry climates such as the Canadian prairies it is the season of static electricity. Many of us who have experienced a nasty shock touching a metal doorknob after walking on a carpet have probably wondered “could this seemingly unlimited energy source could be harnessed for good?”.

Well, it turns out that scientists have been working on this for decades, developing triboelectric nanogenerators (TENGs). These harvest static electricity that is created by rubbing two surfaces together.

TENGs are usually made using sophisticated equipment, but now Gang Wang and colleagues at the University of Alabama have created a triboelectric generator that is made from two low-cost materials: double-sided sticky tape; and aluminium-coated plastic film.

Described as uncomplicated and easy-to-fabricate, the device can power up to 400 LEDs. Indeed, its output of 169.6 watts per square metre is 47% higher than other devices, the researchers claim. It sounds like a great way to power your Christmas-tree lights if the electricity fails this winter.

The team describe their generator in ACS Omega.



Copyright © 2023 by IOP Publishing Ltd and individual contributors
bright-rec iop pub iop-science physcis connect