Pioneering Nanotechnology Developed To Capture Energy From People

Michigan State University researchers have developed a nanotechnology device that can turn human motion into energy. A mere finger swipe can help applications run a smartphone.  ( Nelson Sepulveda/MSU ) 

Experts at the Michigan State University have developed a nanotechnology device that is as thin as film and can turn human motion into energy. This means that a mere finger swipe over a smartphone screen can keep it running indefinitely.

Similarly, by typing on keyboards, laptop batteries will be charged. Fitness trackers too can gain power from the kinetics of jogging feet.

Known as biocompatible ferroelectric nanogenerator, or FENG, the technology is discussed in greater detail in Nano Energy.

“What I foresee, relatively soon, is the capability of not having to charge your cell phone for an entire week, for example, because that energy will be produced by your movement,” said Nelson Sepulveda, lead researcher and associate professor of electrical engineering at Michigan.

Futuristic Device

The experts showcased a prototype device that is flexible, thin and apt for many applications.

The processes are enabled by the device’s structure that is built on a silicon wafer, where layers are separated by walls of thin polypropylene ferroelectric, silver, and polyimide slices.

Ionized layers upon compression help in generating electric energy from the substrate.

The miniature or nano size of the device needs special mention. A case in point is the palm-sized device that was demonstrated by the researchers powering a slew of LED lights. Also tiny was the one that energized a touch screen device smaller than a finger.

The Michigan researchers affirm that FENG has the potential to turn into “a promising alternative in the field of mechanical energy harvesting” as far as autonomous electronics such as cell phones, wireless headsets, and touch-screen devices are concerned.

More impressive is the device’s ability to double power output when folded. The researchers are also mulling how the technology would ignite power from the heel strike to run gadgets like headsets.

The authors are optimistic about the device’s future based on simplicity, scalability, and light weight.

Other contributors to the research included doctoral scholars Wei Li, David Torres, and Tongyu Wang, as well as Chuan Wang, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the MSU.

Sepulveda added that they are working on charging wearable devices with human motion.

FENG’s Big Potential

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