A team of researchers headed by Zhong Lin Wang, a scientist at Georgia Institute of Technology, has developed the first ever practical nanogenerator.
It features an adaptable chip that can be powered by body movements to produce electricity. It does not require batteries or electrical vents. The scientists presented their research at the 241st National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society and they explained on enhancing the device’s electricity production by thousand times and voltage by 150 times for making it commercially viable.
Zhong Lin Wang has stated that their nanogenerators depict a significant landmark in moveable electronics segment and their product can probably enhance the quality of future lives. The new enhancements have made the nanogenerator capable enough to power laser diodes, liquid-crystal displays and light-emitting diodes. The generated power is stored by means of a capacitor and the output electricity can cyclically power a sensor and broadcast the signal by wireless means.
According to Wang, if the rate of enhancement is maintained, the nanogenerator may be deployed in several applications demanding more electricity. For instance, personal electric equipments can be powered by footsteps driving nanogenerators placed inside a shoe’s sole, powering bio insulin pumps using heartbeats and powering ecological sensors by fluttering nanogenerators in the air.
The commercial viability of the device was established by utilizing it to activate an LED light and a liquid crystal display, which are prominently included in several electric systems like computers and calculators. The nanogenerator was pressed in between two fingers to generate electricity.
The nanogenerator features zinc oxide (ZnO) nanowires. ZnO nanowires are piezoelectric and power is produced when they are stressed or bended. These movements can be related to body movements like walking, blood flow and heart beat as well as ecological movements like wind and moving tires. The ZnO nanowire’s diameter is so less that around 500 ZnO nanowires can be included inside a single hair. The scientists established a method to collect and merge electricity generated from all the ZnO nanowires. They also found an effective method of placing all the nanowires on adaptable polymer chips, each measuring one fourth the size of a postage stamp.
At three volts around one micro Ampere output current can be obtained by piling five nanogenerators together. This output is similar to the voltage produced by two usual AA batteries. Piling more nanogenerators and nanowires could generate sufficient power for driving bigger electric devices.
The scientists have reported that their next attempt is to further enhance the productivity of the nanogenerator and to search a firm to develop the nanogenerator. It was estimated that that the nanogenerator will be commercially available in another three to five years. The primary application of the device will be to serve as an electrical source for small ecological sensors and infrastructure monitoring sensors.
The research received sponsorship from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Department of Energy, the National Institute of Health and the National Science Foundation, and the U.S. Air Force.