Could hamsters help solve the world's energy crisis? Probably not, but a hamster wearing a power-generating jacket is doing its own small part to provide a new and renewable source of electricity.
And using the same nanotechnology, Georgia Institute of Technology researchers have also generated electrical current from a tapping finger moving the users of BlackBerry devices, cell phones and other handhelds one step closer to powering them with their own typing.
"Using nanotechnology, we have demonstrated ways to convert even irregular biomechanical energy into electricity," said Zhong Lin Wang, a Regent's professor in the Georgia Tech School of Materials Science and Engineering. "This technology can convert any mechanical disturbance into electrical energy."
The demonstrations of harnessing biomechanical energy to produce electricity were reported February 11 in the online version of the American Chemical Society journal Nano Letters. 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 Wang's 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.
|Contact: John Toon|
Georgia Institute of Technology Research News