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Power system invented for nanotechnology

Since the concept of nanosystems first arose, people have asked “how will these things be powered?” Now there’s another answer from Z.L. Wang at Georgia Tech, in a paper published April 6 in Science. Extremetech explains:

The generators use a series of vertically aligned zinc oxide nanowires that move inside a zigzag plate electrode. These nanowires each have unique semi conducting properties, according to Wang, and can produce small electrical charges when they are flexed by vibrations within the body or ultrasonic waves.

The zigzag electrode then serves as a Schottky barrier (a metal semiconductor junction) to the hundreds or thousands of nanowires and is able to harvest the energy they produce.

With further optimization, Wang says that he and his group expect their nanogenerators could produce as much as four watts per cubic centimeter, more than enough to power a variety of environmental, biomedical, and defense-based nano-scale devices…

Wang also notes that these generators could be used to power much more than nanodevices.

“If you had a device like this in your shoes when you walked, you would be able to generate your own small current to power small electronics,” Wang said. “Anything that makes the nanowires move within the generator can be used for generating power. Very little force is required to move them.”

Science’s editors explain further:

Because different wires are actuated at different times, a continuous electrical current is generated.

So, both the nanodevices and macrodevices in our future wearables may be powered by our own walking. Maybe this will get people walking more. (Probably not. They could instead use the movement of our breathing. Or our fingers pressing the remote control, or arms reaching for a bag of chips.)

Anyone see a reason that this principle couldn’t work at the molecular scale? Don’t assume a water environment. (Credit KurzweilAI.tech) —Christine

5 Responses to “Power system invented for nanotechnology”

  1. Kyle Haviland Says:

    This sounds like a good idea, but i don’t understand why nanomachines can’t run on our bodies excess ATP. I’m not a biologist, but it seems that the body already runs at 300 percent efficiency. You see it when you go to the mall and look at the general public’s trunk. Wouldn’t it be nice to have that energy produced from that bag of potato chips be the power behind your nanobots.

  2. Adrian Wilkins Says:

    Getting at excess ATP would require you to have intra-cellular implants. Not to mention that we don’t really have excess ATP ; it’s the final product of our energy release cycle and as such, you only have a few seconds reserve.

    Now, an implant that could use lipids, most notably low-density-lipoproteins (colloquially known as “bad cholesterol”) would be both beneficial to our health and power our personal devices. Human lipid metabolism is complex, but I’d imagine an MNT system could be less complicated. It might even be worth implanting a device that does nothing but produce waste heat just for the health benefits (like the brown fat that infants use to maintain their body temperature). I wouldn’t mind – women would be slimmer and have to wear fewer clothes or overheat themselves :-)

    It’s still a long way off though. This system is orders of magnitude easier to manufacture.

  3. Alexxander Holmes-Makcrow Says:

    now i’m just a student at high school, but wouldn’t it be nice to find a nanobot to have the ability to improve our bodies efficiancy to above 450% cause then we could do anything MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

    NERDY HOOOD!!!!!

  4. Nanodot: Nanotechnology News and Discussion » Blog Archive » Nanotechnology in clothing harvests energy from the wearer’s movements Says:

    [...] Fibers made from zinc oxide nanowires can generate electrical current from low frequency mechanical motion, like body movements. Last April we noted the initial success of Prof. Z.L. Wang at Georgia Tech in using nanowires to produce electricity (Power system invented for nanotechnology). Now PhysOrg.com reports Prof. Wang’s further progress with nanotech power systems. From “Remarkable new nano-fiber clothing may someday power your iPod“: [...]

  5. rimey-maurivard Says:

    I have a question for Dr Wang – may be you could ask him if we could use his technology for watch dials lighting (only when needed) powered by these nanowires generators which would be activated or powered by the automatic mass used in watch movements for winding the movement…?

    With my best regards

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