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Georgia Tech makes nanogenerators

The question of how to power devices at the nanoscale is getting increasing attention. Georgia Tech’s Z.L. Wang has one answer:

Researchers have developed a new technique for powering nanometer-scale devices without the need for bulky energy sources such as batteries.

By converting mechanical energy from body movement, muscle stretching or water flow into electricity, these “nanogenerators” could make possible a new class of self-powered implantable medical devices, sensors and portable electronics…

“Our bodies are good at converting chemical energy from glucose into the mechanical energy of our muscles,” Wang noted. “These nanogenerators can take that mechanical energy and convert it to electrical energy for powering devices inside the body. This could open up tremendous possibilities for self-powered implantable medical devices.”

Anyone care to speculate on whether this approach translates to the atomically-precise molecular scale? —Christine

3 Responses to “Georgia Tech makes nanogenerators”

  1. Eric T. Says:

    Eventually, I’m sure something similar will power some atomically-precise molecular-scale devices. However, the scale of these specific “generators” is a bit larger–500nm long, 20-40nm in diameter, so not yet. I do like the idea of integrating this technology into other fields, as demonstrated in the following quote:

    “You could envision having these nanogenerators in your shoes to produce electricity as you walk,” Wang said. “This could be beneficial to soldiers in the field, who now depend on batteries to power their electrical equipment. As long as the soldiers were moving, they could generate electricity.”

    Related to this, I was wondering why such generators wouldn’t be embedded in every aspect of the clothing. Considering that the future soldier concept includes “wired” clothing–where nanodevices are woven into the very fabric of the uniform–why not integrate these devices in any joint area or any other area where relatively regular movement occurs?

    In a similar line of thought, what about creating a reactive battle armor composed of durable, shock-absorbing “nanosprings” which, of course, absorb the initial shock or blow of the bullet and use the energy created by the blow to disperse the blow and create an equalizing electromagnetic field? That, or a rippling effect (like water from the impact of a stone) dispersing the energy outward from the point of blow, to actuators/generators that can convert the kinetic energy into electricity? Maybe I’m letting my imagination run wild…

    Neither of these ideas necessarily need to be applied strictly to the military; there are obviously a great deal of other applications (the shock-absorbing/distributing armor concept might be applicable in sports–a catcher’s mitt in baseball, for example, or pads in football)

    I’m sure I’m probably just reiterating thoughts others have already had…

  2. Christine Peterson Says:

    Maybe the energy from the movement could be stored in nanoflywheels.

    Not my idea originally, of course. –C

  3. Brian Wang Says:

    Here is something that would be closer to nanoscale translation of movement into power.

    Proteins such as Prestin in the inner ear, or mechanosensitive ion channels found in almost all living organisms, translate nanometer movements into milli-volts of electricity.

    This is part of the most recent batch of Nasa Institute for Advanced Concepts funded studies.

    Bio-electric space exploration study by Matthew Silver. He is working on developing ideas at the
    intersection of synthetic biology, space systems design, space operations, and electrical

    Molecular manufacturing should find ways to leverage and integrate with the DNA/RNA/protein nanotechnology and synthetic biology work.

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