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Nanogenerator Produces Electricity with Body Movements

A research team recently unveiled a nanogenerator at the 241st National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society. It is a supple chip that utilizes body movements such as a finger pinch to produce electricity.

They described boosting the device’s power output by 1000 times and its voltage by 150 times to finally move it out of the lab and toward everyday life.

This discovery will help develop hand-held electronics fueled only by body movements, removing the need for batteries or electrical inputs, according to Zhong Lin Wang, who led the team.

The development will lead to liquid-crystal displays, laser and light-emitting diodes. A capacitor will save the energy produced, so that the energy output can intermittently impel a sensor and relay the signals wirelessly. It could be applied in personal electronic devices fueled by footsteps triggering the nanogenerator within a shoe sole, embedded insulin pumps fueled by a heart beat, and eco sensors fueled by nanogenerators fluttering in the wind.

The team utilized the nanogenerator to fuel both an LED light and a liquid crystal display used in computers and calculators. The nano-generator was squeezed between two fingers to produce the energy.

ZnO nanowires can produce an electric current when stretched. Any body movements like walking, heartbeat, or blood passing through the body could trigger the current. The nanowires can respond to wind or rolling tires to produce electricity. The team collected and combined the energy from millions of nanoscale zinc oxide wires and devised a technique to place the nanowires on polymer chips. Five nanogenerators together generate about 1 mA current at 3 V.

Wang, a scientist at Georgia Institute of Technology, said that more nanowires and nanogenerators piled together could generate energy sufficient to fuel large electronics, including an iPod or a cell phone.

The researchers received grants from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (U.S. Department of Defense), the U.S. Air Force. the Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.



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