A team of scientists lead by Dr. Zhong Lin Wang at the School of Materials Science and Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a feasible nanogenerator that could power electrical devices simply by their movement. The study was funded by a remarkable number of institutions, including the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Department of Energy, the U.S. Air Force, the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.
According to Dr. Wang, they team has progressed quite a bit from its early days, now offering power several orders of magnitude higher than before. He added: “This development represents a milestone toward producing portable electronics that can be powered by body movements without the use of batteries or electrical outlets. If we can sustain the rate of improvement, the nanogenerator may find a broad range of other applications that require more power.”
[RELATED_ARTICLE]Dr. Wang believes nanogenerators will be commercially available within three to five years. The nanogenerator, seen above, is a flexible chip made up of millions zinc oxide nanowire piezoelectric filaments, which generate electricity if stressed, squeezed or bent. The current iteration of the nanogenerator is powerful enough to drive such electronics as liquid crystal displays, light emitter and laser diodes, and sensors. According to Dr. Wang, five of these nanogenerators piled up together can generate nearly 1 microampere of current at 3 volts, roughly the same as two AA batteries.
As you can imagine, the applications are endless, especially in portable devices, from entertainment to medical. Bio-mechanical/electrical prostheses, machines and implantations could also be powered by such nanogenerators.
Image courtesy: Georgia Tech