In the near future a walk down the alley or a gesture of the hand could be enough to charge your iPods and iPhones. Nanogenerators made using zinc oxide nanowires by researchers from the school of Medical Science and Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology intend to generate energy from movement, apt enough to power electronic devices and military equipment in the coming years.
Lead researcher Zhong Lin Wang and his team presented their research at the American Chemical Society's 237th National Meeting. The research comprises a nanogenerator which uses high conductivity ZnO nanowires to harvest energy from the environment in form of low-frequency mechanical energy and then converts the same into electric energy which can power a variety of devices, sans batteries of course. The ZnO nanowires generate an electric current, owing to their piezoelectric nature, when subjected to mechanical stress - that can be brought upon by any kind of body movement, even as slight as the flow of blood.
Besides being a novel way to charge electronics, the technology when meets practicality, could be beneficial for a host of environmental, medical or defense concerns. The nanogenerators could be used in wearable sensors, where the nanoworld has stepped in to minimize the frame, but haven’t been able to see batteries off.
Yes, the technology could generate electricity in all conditions, thanks to ZnO nonowires that can be used on almost all surfaces with same properties, as long as movement of some sort persists, but what if there is no movement?