Scientists unveil self-powered wireless nano device

Scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology report on the feasibility of a genre of nano-scale implantable medical devices that are powered by energy from the environment instead of batteries.

In the words of William Gibson, the future is already here. It may be barely Google-able in an obscure scientific publication, but it has profound implications for the future of implantable medical (and other) sensors.

American Chemical Society

That future is a nanoscale device that manages to transmit data wirelessly up to 30 feet and operate without a battery, instead harvesting energy from the environment via such sources as the pulse of a blood vessel or the gust of a breeze.

"It is entirely possible to drive these devices by scavenging energy from sources in the environment such as gentle airflow, vibration, sonic wave, solar, chemical, and/or thermal energy," researchers write in the journal Nano Letters.

They describe their device as the first nano sensor to both transmit data wirelessly and be self-powered. To accomplish this feat, they employed a nanogenerator to convert mechanical vibration to electricity; a capacitor to store that power; and electronics--including a sensor and radio transmitter--to collect and transmit data.

Of course, medical sensors are not the only potential use for this kind of device. Think airborne surveillance cameras, wearable electronics, and so much more. Only the future, which is of course already here, can tell.

About the author

Elizabeth Armstrong Moore is based in Portland, Oregon, and has written for Wired, The Christian Science Monitor, and public radio. Her semi-obscure hobbies include climbing, billiards, board games that take up a lot of space, and piano.

 

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