Nanowires to capture energy from body movement

Scientists from Georgia Institute of Technology have developed an energy harvester based on zinc oxide nanowires that can capture power from movements such as someone waving their hand.

Previous work at the institute has yielded energy harvesters that work at ultrasonic frequencies but the most recent work allows capture from low-frequency body movements.

“This research will have a major impact on defense technology, environmental monitoring, biomedical sciences and even personal electronics,” said lead researcher Professor Zhong Lin Wang.

Described in a presentation at the American Chemical Society's 237th National Meeting, the ZnO nanowires are piezoelectric – generating an electric current when subjected to mechanical stress.

Wang claimed the nanowires can be grown easily on a wide variety of surfaces, and the nanogenerators will operate in the air or in liquids once properly packaged. Among the surfaces on which the nanowires can be grown are metals, ceramics, polymers and clothing.

“Quite simply, this technology can be used to generate energy under any circumstances as long as there is movement,” said Wang.

Although nanogenerators can produce electricity continuously and simultaneously, the greatest challenge in developing these nanogenerators is to improve the output voltage and power, Wang added.

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