We’ve seen piezoelectric systems that harvest energy from roads, subways, and even umbrellas — now researchers have announced that they are on the brink of unlocking an energy grid composed of capillaries, arteries, and veins. Heralded by advancements in piezoelectric nanowires, the development may one day harness the flow of blood to power ipods, cellphones and other portable electronics. How’s that for an alternative take on plasma power?
Developed by a research team headed by Zhong Lin Wang, the technique utilizes zinc oxide piezoelectric nanowires that generate an electric current when subjected to mechanical stress. The wires measure 1/5,000th to 1/25th the diameter of a human hair and are capable of harvesting energy from low-frequency vibrations such as the wind or the flow of currents. Although similar kinetic energy generators have been developed in the past, the miniscule size of nanowires may one day lend them to applications in subdermal implants – imagine biosensors and portable electronics that are powered by simple movements such as walking, or the beating of a heart.
Zhong Lin Wang has stated that “This research will have a major impact on defense technology, environmental monitoring, biomedical sciences, and even personal electronics.” Skin crawling yet? Although certainly a novel idea, implementation is still a long way off.