Thursday, 12 January 2012

Heartbeat-powered nanogenerators could soon replace batteries

In a few years, you may never have to recharge your phone again — provided part of you keeps moving. Back in March,scientists announced the world's first viable "nanogenerator" — a tiny computer chip that gets its power from body movements like snapping fingers or - eventually - your heartbeat.
The researchers can already use the technology to power a liquid crystal display and an LED, and claim that their technology could replace batteries for small devices like MP3 players and mobile phones within a few years


Practical Applications for Nanogenerators: Medicine and Beyond


Doctors need dependable technology to power devices implanted in patients to regulate or monitor the patient's health. Examples of such devices are pacemakers and continuous glucose monitoring systems. Implant devices come with an inherent challenge: They can wear out over time or require replacement batteries or a cumbersome external power source.
By using nanogenerators, doctors could implant a new generation of these devices with the capacity to stay powered and last a long time with minimal body invasion [source: Medgadget]. Such devices would harness the energy of involuntary movement like a heartbeat or lung expansion. In short, you could be using your body to keep alive a device that helps keep you alive in return. In addition, by using non-toxic materials like ZnO as the piezoelectric material, there is a better chance of implanting a nanogenerator without harming the body [source:Greenemeier].

So what's beyond medicine for nanogenerators? Researchers believe that nanogenerators could soon be powering your iPod or smartphone. Because nanogenerators are so small, they could easily be embedded in the cloth of a T-shirt or hoodie, so your iPod could use your pulse to keep its internal battery charged. Wang expects the nanogenerators his group has developed to be part of such products and available for purchase within five years [source: FoxNews].
A side benefit of using nanogenerators is their potential positive impact on the environment. Nanogenerators use a renewable resource: kinetic energy from body movement. They're created from more environmentally friendly materials than batteries, and they have the potential to reduce the waste associated with battery production and disposal. Still, the impact is small, literally, due to the size and limited power of nanogenerators. Time will tell if the nanogenerators will be viable in powering larger devices such as laptops.

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