Getting a charge out of a beating heart

Scientists develop nano generator that uses heartbeat and blood flow to produce electricity.

Georgia Institute of Technology

Scientists have devised a way to use heartbeat and blood flow to generate electricity to charge military equipment, and maybe even your cell phone one day.

Low-frequency vibrations from any source of movement, including a heartbeat, blood flow and even the wind against your clothes, creates mechanical stress, which in turn produces electricity through the cyclical stretching and releasing of specially designed nano thin, zinc oxide wires, according to researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology.

The new nano-scale "flexible charge pump" generator produces alternating current. The greater the strain rate, the more electricity generated.

"Quite simply, this technology can be used to generate energy under any circumstances as long as there is movement." Zhong Lin Wang Regent's professor in the School of Materials Science and Engineering and director of the Center for Nanostructure Characterization at the Georgia Tech said in an interview. This "research will have a major impact on defense technology, environmental monitoring, biomedical sciences and even personal electronics."

The nanowires are grown on a variety of materials and measure "about 1/5,000th of the diameter of a human hair and about 1/25th of the length of a human hair."

The technology, which was sponsored by DARPA , could be integrated into military clothing and used to power individual gear, such as radios and night vision goggles, Wang said. Multiple arrays of the generators could be embedded into flags, building decorations, shoes--or even implanted under the skin to power biosensors.

"Self-powered nanotechnology could be the basis for a new industry," he said.

About the author

    The military establishment's ever increasing reliance on technology and whiz-bang gadgetry impacts us as consumers, investors, taxpayers and ultimately as the defended. Our mission here is to bring some of these products and concepts to your attention based on carefully selected criteria such as importance to national security, originality, collateral damage to the treasury and adaptability to yard maintenance-but not necessarily in that order. E-mail him at Disclosure.



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