Researchers report the first detailed results of electric power generation with a new technique that could drive implantable medical devices, sensors and portable electronics without the need for bulky batteries or other energy sources.
Instead of batteries, electricity for such devices would come, for instance, from muscle contraction or other body movements, according to Zhong Lin Wang and colleagues.
Their report, scheduled for the Aug. 9 issue of the ACS journal Nano Letters, describes experimental observation of electric power production with "nanogenerators" fashioned from a single zinc oxide nanowire and a nanowire belt. In earlier research, Wang's group discovered that zinc oxide nanowires produce electricity via a long-known phenomenon termed the pizoelectric effect. It occurs in certain materials, which change mechanical energy -- from flexing or twisting, for instance -- into electricity.
"The methodology and applications demonstrated in this paper simply open a new field in nanotechnology," the researchers report. In summarizing implications of the new findings, they cite potential harvesting of electricity from mechanical movement energy (such as body movement, muscle stretching and blood pressure), vibration energy (sound waves) and hydraulic energy (blood flow or contraction of blood vessels). The technology might be used in wireless self-powered nanodevices, to charge battery-powered devices and in building larger-scale electric power generators, they add.
Reference: "Pizoelectric and Semiconducting Coupled Power Generating Process of a Single ZnO Belt/Wire: A Technology for Harvesting Electricity From the Environment"
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