Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Nanogenerators Produce Electricity

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Nanogenerators Produce Electricity

Article excerpt

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 (Georgia Tech) researchers have also generated electrical current from a tapping finger--moving the users of cell phones and other handhelds one step closer to providing power with their own typing.

"Using nanotechnology, we have demonstrated ways to convert even irregular biomechanical energy into electricity," says Zhong Lin Wang, a Regents' 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 appear in the online version of the American Chemical Society journal Nano Letters.

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, the flapping of a flag in the breeze, the 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.

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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. …

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