Inspired by electric eels, scientists from the Beijing Institute of Nanoenergy and Nanosystems and the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences have created a bionic stretchable nanogenerator (BSNG).
The researchers believe that the new technology will fulfill the demanding requirements of wearable equipment applications for deformability, stretchability, waterproofness, biocompatibility, and so on.
BSNG employs technology that imitates the structure of ion channels on the cytomembrane of electric eels’ electrocytes and has two wide applications: In addition to offering a potential power source for wearable electronic devices on land and underwater, it can also be employed for human motion monitoring because of its exceptional flexibility and mechanical responsiveness.
The research was published online in Nature Communications on June 19th, 2019.
BSNG has been developed on the basis of a mechanically sensitive bionic channel that depends on the mismatch in stress between silicone and polydimethylsiloxane. Similar to its eel counterpart, BSNG can produce an open circuit voltage of up to 10 V underwater. Additionally, it can produce an open circuit voltage of up to 170 V under dry conditions.
The bionic structure and material of BSNG guarantee better stretchability. For instance, BSNG retained stable output performance without attenuation ever after 50,000 uniaxial tensile tests (50% tensile rate).
In order to demonstrate the viability of the technology, the scientists developed an underwater wireless motion monitoring system based on BSNG.
Using this system, it is possible to synchronously send, display, and record the motion signals under various swimming strokes. With reference to the energy harvester application, scientists realized underwater rescue based on BSNG.
Wearable integrated BSNGs can gather mechanical energy from human motion and change it into electrical energy to be stored in capacitors. In emergent situations, the rescue signal light can be remotely lighted by hitting the alarm trigger in front of the chest.
BSNG’s exceptional capabilities are promising to enable its use in soft robots, electronic skin, implantable medical devices, and wearable electronic products.