“Nanogenerators” powered by your heartbeat could replace conventional batteries in about five years, according to chemists.
In a world dominated by 4G smartphones, touchscreen tablets and portable laptops, finding ways to keep everything charged can be a nightmare and a losing proposition. What if we could power them from anywhere while doing almost nothing at all?
Dr. Zhong Lin Wang and his team of researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed tiny nanogenerators that use small movements to generate enough power.
At the National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society, Wang’s team demonstrated the ability of their milestone device, using it to power LCD screens and even transmit a radio signal.
For Wang, his nanogenerators are the solution to our outlet-tethered mobile existence — an idea he made clear at the chemistry conference. “This development represents a milestone toward producing portable electronics that can be powered by body movements without the use of batteries or electrical outlets.”
Wang’s new device is thousands of times more powerful than previous generations. “If we can sustain the rate of improvement, the nanogenerator may find a broad range of other applications that require more power,” he said.
“Our nanogenerators are poised to change lives in the future,” Wang said. “Their potential is only limited by one’s imagination.”
Nanogenerators work using zinc oxide (ZnO) nanowires — “piezoelectric” gizmos that can generate an electric current when strained or flexed. This means that almost any kind of movement – walking, a heartbeat, wind, even rolling tires — can generate electricity.
The next step is to boost the potential power output, Wang said. “Additional nanowires and more nanogenerators, stacked together, could produce enough energy for powering larger electronics, such as an iPod or charging a cell phone.”
“While a few volts may not seem like much, it has grown by leaps and bounds over previous versions.” Wang expects his nanogenerators to be in stores within 5 years.