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Zhong Lin Wang, Regents Professor in the School of Materials Science and Engineering at Georgia Tech, holds a prototype DC nanogenerator fabricated using an array of zinc oxide nanowires.  (Source: Georgia Tech Photo by Gary Meek)
Georgia Tech team says tiny generators could replace bulky batteries in medical devices

Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology have reported successful testing of nanoscale devices that are capable of generating small amounts of electricity from blood flow or the contraction of blood vessels in the body.

Regents’ Professor Zhong Lin Wang and his colleagues at Georgia Tech's School of Materials Science and Engineering state that the nanogenerators could be used to power nanoscale medical devices within the body. This would do away with the need for batteries or other external power sources.

“It sets a solid foundation for self-powering implantable and wireless nanodevices and nanosystems in biofluid and any other type of liquid," Wang said in a recent interview with United Press International.

The article, scheduled to appear in the August 9 issue of the Nano Papers journal, describes how the team created working nanogenerators from a single strand of zinc oxide nanowire and a nanowire belt. Using arrays of vertically-aligned nanowires that move inside a novel “zigzag” plate electrode, the devices are able to continuously produce electricity using a phenomenon known as the piezoelectric effect. Zinc oxide and other piezoelectric materials are able to convert mechanical energy — such as flexing or twisting — into electricity.

In addition to converting the energy from blood flow into electrical current, the devices could also harness muscle contractions and a variety of other organic bodily functions, according to the researchers. "The technology has the potential of converting mechanical movement energy (such as body movement, muscle stretching, blood pressure), vibration energy (such as acoustic/ultrasonic wave), and hydraulic energy (such as flow of body fluid, blood flow, contraction of blood vessels) into electric energy," the article abstract states.

The researchers say that future generations of the technology could be used to create wireless self-powered nanodevices, to charge battery-powered devices and to build larger electric power generators.

The Georgia Tech research on nanogenerators at has been funded in part by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF).



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free lunch?
By bunga28 on 7/25/2007 2:34:20 PM , Rating: 0
No such thing is a free lunch! If your body is already weakened (the fact that you need something implanted) and the blood flow is already slow due to CHF, stenosis, thrombosis, DM2, etc... this may cause more harm than good to the body since it may slow down the blood supply even more to the critical organs (CNS, kidneys, hell, even the extremities) that need fresh supply of nutrients and O2. yes, even in the molecular scale--they do add up. This technique is a good thought to eliminate having to change the battery every few years.




RE: free lunch?
By TheTerl on 7/25/2007 3:24:08 PM , Rating: 4
I think you overstate the risk a bit. Certainly this type of device would not be appropriate for every patient, particularly some cases you mentioned where the heart and arteries already suffer. For tiny medical devices and sensors, the amount of power needed might be a thousandth of a watt - and to put that in perspective, the average person outputs around 100 watts just sitting and resting. 'Squeeze' an extra apple, or sandwich, or cookie into your diet and you would be set for months. Also remember the piezoelectric energy harvesting devices they mention can be made so small (with MEMS technology where it is now, easily the size of an individual cell) that reducing circulation should be a non-issue. Just as you wouldn't worry about reduced blood flow when you stretch your arms or close your fist, it will be no more problem here.


RE: free lunch?
By elegault on 7/25/2007 3:29:29 PM , Rating: 3
It won't slow down the blood supply.

The heart is a pump. Pumps initiate fluid flow. The resistance to this flow is present as pressure.

Every component of our circulatory system has a pressure drop, i.e. arteries, etc.

If we add a component (these generators) there will likely be a higher pressure drop. To overcome this the heart will operate at high pressures.

How much higher is obviously unknown. But, considering the pressure drops already in our system, I expect the addition of one or two of these devices will be negligible.

Natural artery clogging is much more of an issue.


RE: free lunch?
By Sebec on 7/25/2007 8:34:17 PM , Rating: 2
A few corrections to your understanding of physiology, friend. Resistance to flow in a blood vessel is resistance, not pressure. Resistance is affected by the viscosity of the blood (?), the length of the blood vessel (l), and the radius of the blood vessel raised to the fourth power (r^4), described by the Poiseuille equation. R=8?l/pr^4

Pressure difference across the vessel is the driving force for flow. As in electricity, (I = ?V/R), Ohm's law also applies to the circulatory system, where Q = ?P/R, where Q = flow, ?P = the pressure difference, and R = resistance.


RE: free lunch?
By Sebec on 7/25/2007 8:36:09 PM , Rating: 2
The Greek letters in those equations apparently came out as question marks. The ones used were delta, eta, and pi.


RE: free lunch?
By Adul on 7/25/2007 3:40:27 PM , Rating: 5
How many of these things do i need if I want to be able to shoot bolts of electricity from my fingers :)


RE: free lunch?
By alkolkin on 7/25/2007 4:47:04 PM , Rating: 2
My God, that was the funniest response to a blog that I ever read!


RE: free lunch?
By kyleb2112 on 7/26/2007 1:45:22 AM , Rating: 4
Mitochlorians V1.0. But you'll need the Dark Side plugin.


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