Photo Credit: Zhong Lin Wang, Ph.D., Georgia Institute of Technology
We've heard about futuristic concepts about our body's movements powering up batteries, and we even saw the (rather gruesome) experiment with a rat powering a battery with its body fluids. But how close are we to being able to power our iPods as we walk around? Apparently we'll see it within the next five years, or so says a group of scientists at the American Chemistry Society meeting this week. Bringing The Nanogenerator to Market
According to the American Chemistry Society, researchers including lead scientist Zhong Lin Wang, Ph.D. of Georgia Institute of Technology, have spent the last six years working on a commercially viable nanogenerator that uses the body's movements to generate electricity. And they've finally hit a breakthrough. They've created a flexible chip that currently generates electricity when it is squeezed between two fingers (but will eventually use our very pulse) to create a charge.
"This development represents a milestone toward producing portable electronics that can be powered by body movements without the use of batteries or electrical outlets," said lead scientist Zhong Lin Wang, Ph.D. "Our nanogenerators are poised to change lives in the future. Their potential is only limited by one's imagination."
Read More: Body Heat for Powering Medical Devices Helps Off-Grid Hospitals
Their latest iteration of the nanogenerator stores generated electricity in a capacitor, and was efficient enough to run LCDs, LEDs and laser diodes. The team is working on ramping up the voltage by 150 times so that it can be functional in daily life, charging MP3 players and other small handheld devices, environmental sensors powered by wind, and even devices in the medical industry like insulin pumps powered by heartbeats.
A nanogenerator, which scientists used to energize an LED light and an LCD display, could power portable electronics in the future using electricity generated by body movement. Credit: Zhong Lin Wang, Ph.D., Georgia Institute of Technology
How The Nanogenerator Works
According to ACS, "The key to the technology is zinc oxide (ZnO) nanowires. ZnO nanowires are piezoelectric -- they can generate an electric current when strained or flexed. That movement can be virtually any body movement, such as walking, a heartbeat, or blood flowing through the body. The nanowires can also generate electricity in response to wind, rolling tires, or many other kinds of movement. The diameter of a ZnO nanowire is so small that 500 of the wires can fit inside the width of a single human hair."
io9 states that Dr. Wang feels confident that sometime in the next five years. The sooner we can go off-grid with charging small electronics, the better!
Follow Jaymi on Twitter for more stories like this
More on Kinetic Energy Chargers
World's First Medical Device Powered by Body Fluids
Powering Medical Devices with Your Organs