Harvesting biomechanical energy

Even before noting the vampire battery work being done at the University of British Columbia (April 3, 2009) , I’ve been quite interested in self-powered batteries. (As for why it’s a ‘vampire’, researchers are working on a battery fueled by by a patient’s own blood so that theoretically someone with a pacemaker or a deep brain stimulator would require fewer battery changes, i.e., fewer operations.)

Professor Zhong Lin Wang at Georgia Tech (Georgia Institute of Technology in the US) is taking another approach to self-powered batteries by harvesting irregular mechanical motion (such as heart beats, finger tapping, breathing, vocal cord vibrations, etc.) in a field that’s been termed nanopiezotronics. Michael Berger at Nanowerk has written an article spotlighting Professor Wang’s work and its progress. From the article,

“Our experiments clearly show that the in vivo application of our single-wire nanogenerator for harvesting biomechanical energy inside a live animal works,” says Wang. “The nanogenerator has successfully converted the mechanical vibration energy from normal breathing and a heartbeat into electricity.”

He concludes that his team’s research shows a feasible approach to scavenge the biomechanical energy inside the body, such as heart beat, blood flow, muscle stretching, or even irregular vibration. “This work presents a crucial step towards implantable self-powered nanosystems.”

There’s still a lot of work to be done before human clinical trials (let alone thinking about products in the marketplace),

…  Wang tells Nanowerk. “However, the applications of the nanogenerators under in vivo and in vitro environments are distinct. Some crucial problems need to be addressed before using these devices in the human body, such as biocompatibility and toxicity.”

If you’re interested in the details about what the researchers are doing, please do read Berger’s fascinating investigation into the area of research.

3 thoughts on “Harvesting biomechanical energy

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  3. Pingback: Developing self-powered batteries for pacemakers « FrogHeart

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