The Ashes

Technology, Science and other news
April 10, 2009

Nanogenerators Could Charge Your Electronic Devices Using Body Movements

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Filed under : General


Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a new way to recharge electronic devices like an iPod or iPhone without the need of a battery. Their breakthrough consists of a new power source, body movements, and it was presented at the 237th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in Salt Lake City, Utah.

According to the researchers, their technology is based on converting mechanical energy coming from body movements into electrical energy which could power electronic devices. Although this technology was designed for US Army Soldiers, it is possible to become available for the open public sometime in the future. But why for military purposes? Well, when the soldiers are far on the battlefield with no energy source, they will be able to power their devices by waving, stretching (actually, shooting down the enemy), and it will also help them cut down some of the weight of the gear.

“This research will have a major impact on defense technology, environmental monitoring, biomedical sciences and even personal electronics,” said Zhong Lin Wang, leader of the research, and Regents’ Professor, School of Material Science and Engineering at GIT.

It’s a major breakthrough as this technology can convert low frequency vibrations into electrical energy thanks to ZnO (zinc oxide) nanowires. The energy coming from body movements, the flow of the blood or even the beating of the heart will be transmitted to the devices through ZnO nanowires which can conduct electricity. The zinc oxide nanowire measures 1/5,000th and 1/25th of the human hair in length and in diameter, respectively. The advantage of the ZnO nanowires is that this material is piezoelectric meaning that it generates electrical current when put to mechanical stress.

The team of researchers called it a nanogenerator, and it’s the most efficient when it comes to low-frequency and flexible materials. Another advantage of the ZnO nanowires is that they are waterproof after they are properly and specially packaged. According to the researchers, these nanogenerators can be grown on clothing, metals, polymers, tents, and ceramics.

“Quite simply, this technology can be used to generate energy under any circumstances as long as there is movement,” said Wang.

Moreover, the technology could be useful for defense agencies in the United States as the nanogenerators could be used as nanoscale sensing devices to detect bio-terror attacks. The researchers say that the police can use it to sample air and possibly to detect harmful bio-terror agents. The advantage of the nanogenerators is that they don’t need batteries, unlike biosensors that are implanted under the skin and still need batteries.

The study is only at the beginning, but it looks promising as it can provide electricity continuosly. However, the GIT researchers are now looking to increase the power and the output voltage, and other aspects of the nanogenerators. As an offbeat topic, we have to inform you that this research was funded by DARPA, DoE, NSF, and the National Institute of Health. Also, we have to remind you that the nanogenerators will be available only for the US Army in the early stages of the development so you should enrol yourself if you want limitless energy for your devices.

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