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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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