Nanogenerators produce electricity from jacket wearing hamsters

February 14th, 2009 - 2:18 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Feb 14 (ANI): Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology, US, have used nanotechnology to produce electricity from running hamsters wearing power-generating jackets.

Using nanotechnology, we have demonstrated ways to convert even irregular biomechanical energy into electricity, said Zhong Lin Wang, a Regents professor in the Georgia Tech School of Materials Science and Engineering.

This technology can convert any mechanical disturbance into electrical energy, he added.

The research was supported by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Air Force, and the Emory-Georgia Tech Center for Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence.

The study demonstrates that nanogenerators, which Wangs team has been developing since 2005, can be driven by irregular mechanical motion, such as the vibration of vocal cords, flapping of a flag in the breeze, tapping of fingers or hamsters running on exercise wheels.

Scavenging such low-frequency energy from irregular motion is significant because much biomechanical energy is variable, unlike the regular mechanical motion used to generate most large-scale electricity today.

The nanogenerator power is produced by the piezoelectric effect, a phenomenon in which certain materials such as zinc oxide wires produce electrical charges when they are bent and then relaxed.

The wires are between 100 and 800 nanometers in diameter, and between 100 and 500 microns in length.

To make their generators, Wangs research team encapsulated single zinc oxide wires in a flexible polymer substrate, the wires anchored at each end with an electrical contact, and with a Shottky Barrier at one end to control current flow.

They then attached one of these single-wire generators to the joint area of an index finger, or combined four of the single-wire devices on a yellow jacket worn by the hamster.

The running and scratching of the hamster and the tapping of the finger flexed the substrate in which the nanowires were encapsulated, producing tiny amounts of alternating electrical current.

Integrating four nanogenerators on the hamsters jacket generated up to up to 0.5 nanoamps; less current was produced by the single generator on the finger.

Wang estimates that powering a handheld device such as a Bluetooth headset would require at least thousands of these single-wire generators, which could be built up in three-dimensional modules.

We believe this is the first demonstration of using a live animal to produce current with nanogenerators, Wang said. This study shows that we really can harness human or animal motion to generate current, he added.

Beyond the finger-tapping and hamster-running, Wang believe his modules could be implanted into the body to harvest energy from such sources as muscle movements or pulsating blood vessels. (ANI)

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