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Nanogenerators weave power suit

Posted: 26 Feb 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:nanogenerators? semiconductor? sensor?

Georgia Institute of Technology professor Zhong Lin Wang has invented clothing fabrics that produce electricity from the motion of wearing using nanogenerators.

Wang described nanogenerators as an array of nanowires that produce as much as 4W/cm3 and can power small electronic devices or recharge batteries. Wang has also designed nanogenerators to power self-contained sensors that harvest environmental energy thereby eliminating the need for batteries.

Wang's latest inventionfabrics that generate energy from the wearer's motionare the furthest from commercialization. Besides clothing, the nanogenerating fibers could also be woven into curtains, tents or other structures that capture energy from wind, sound vibration or other mechanical energy.

"The first commercial application of nanogenerators will be self-powered nanodevicesprobably for powering gas and pressure sensors," said Wang. "Powering personal electronics with wearable fabric will likely be the last application of my nanogenerators to be commercialized."

The basic concept involves weaving together two types of zinc oxide nanowires to harness the piezoelectric effect when the fibers flexproducing as much as 4nA at an output voltage of about 4mV. The fibers themselves measure 1cm long.

The experimental fabric now being tested was woven from Kevlar fibers. Zinc oxide nanowires were grown radially out of a polymer (tetraethoxysilane) that holds them in place. The 3.5?m-long fibers are spaced several hundred nanometers apart. One bristling fiber in each pair was coated with gold to serve as the electrode and to deflect nanowire tips on the other fiber.

"The two fibers scrub together and the piezoelectric-semiconductor process converts their mechanical motion into electrical energy," explained Wang, who collaborated with Georgia Tech researchers Xudong Wang and Yong Qin.

Funding for the nanogenerator research was provided by the National Science Foundation, the Energy Department and the Emory-Georgia Tech Nanotechnology Center for Personalized and Predictive Oncology.

- R. Colin Johnson
EE Times

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