Fish scales help develop biomass power generator in India

The world’s first piezoelectric power generator made from fish scales has been developed by Indian researchers, promising to revolutionise the field of biodegradable, flexible and edible electronics. 

The device by a team from Jadavpur University in Koltata can harvest power from body movements, machine and sound vibrations or wind flow. Just touching the nanogenerator a few times with a finger produces enough power to turn on more than 50 blue LEDs, the researchers said.

The technology has multiple advantages. Firstly, the input material - fish scales - is extremely cheap and virtually omnipresent in India, where large quantities of fish are consumed on a daily basis. Most of the time, the resulting biowaste produced at fish markets has no further use.

The Jadavpur researchers realised that fish scales are made of collagen fibres, which are known to possess piezoelectric properties.

In an article published in the latest issue of the journal Applied Physics Letters, the researchers described a one-step demineralisation process they used to turn the fish waste into a flexible transparent nanogenerator.

"We discovered that the piezoelectricity of the fish scale collagen is quite large (~5 pC/N), which we were able to confirm via direct measurement," said Dipankar Mandal, assistant professor at the Department of Physics at Jadavpur University.

"To date, despite several extraordinary efforts, no one else has been able to make a biodegradable energy harvester in a cost-effective, single-step process."

The fish-scale nanogenerator is fully biodegradable and completely biocompatible, which means it is convenient for use in implantable electronics for medical purposes.

"In the future, our goal is to implant a bio-piezoelectric nanogenerator into a heart for pacemaker devices, where it will continuously generate power from heartbeats for the device's operation," Mandal said. "Then it will degrade when no longer needed. Since heart tissue is also composed of collagen, our bio-piezoelectric nanogenerator is expected to be very compatible with the heart."

The team is also planning to use the nanogenerator in future devices for targeted drug delivery or ingestible diagnostic devices.

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