Nanotechnology pushes battery life to eternity

Jun 21, 2011
Let your fingers do the charging. Photo by James Giggacher.

(PhysOrg.com) -- A simple tap from your finger may be enough to charge your portable device thanks to a discovery made at RMIT University and Australian National University.

In a crucial step towards the development of self-powering portable electronics, researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne have for the first time characterised the ability of piezoelectric thin films to turn mechanical pressure into electricity. The pioneering result is published in the 21 June Issue of the leading materials science journal, Advanced Functional Materials.

Lead co-author Dr Madhu Bhaskaran said the research combined the potential of piezoelectrics - materials capable of converting pressure into electrical energy - and the cornerstone of microchip manufacturing, thin film technology. "The power of piezoelectrics could be integrated into running shoes to charge mobile phones, enable laptops to be powered through typing or even used to convert blood pressure into a power source for pacemakers - essentially creating an everlasting battery," she said.

"The concept of energy harvesting using piezoelectric nanomaterials has been demonstrated but the realisation of these structures can be complex and they are poorly suited to mass fabrication.

"Our study focused on thin film coatings because we believe they hold the only practical possibility of integrating piezoelectrics into existing electronic technology." The Australian Research Council-funded study assessed the energy generation capabilities of piezoelectric thin films at the nanoscale, for the first time precisely measuring the level of electrical voltage and current - and therefore, power - that could be generated.

Dr Bhaskaran co-authored the study with Dr Sharath Sriram, within RMIT's Microplatforms Research Group, led by Professor Arnan Mitchell. The pair collaborated with Australian National University's Dr Simon Ruffell on the research. "With the drive for alternative energy solutions, we need to find more efficient ways to power microchips, which are the building blocks of everyday technology like the smarter phone or faster computer," Dr Bhaskaran said. "The next key challenge will be amplifying the electrical energy generated by the piezoelectric materials to enable them to be integrated into low-cost, compact structures."

Explore further: Cheap hybrid outperforms rare metal as fuel-cell catalyst

More information: The study is featured on the inside cover of Volume 21, Issue 12 of Advanced Functional Materials.

Provided by Australian National University

4.2 /5 (53 votes)

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fmfbrestel
3.9 / 5 (8) Jun 21, 2011
The Australian Research Council-funded study assessed the energy generation capabilities of piezoelectric thin films at the nanoscale, for the first time precisely measuring the level of electrical voltage and current - and therefore, power - that could be generated.


....And that voltage and current would be??? Worthless article
Skepticus
4.3 / 5 (6) Jun 21, 2011
Another reason why people punched and kicked electronics devices when they refused to power on!
that_guy
5 / 5 (1) Jun 21, 2011
I was so excited about the breakthrough...and then realized it's only a treatice :(

Yes, I agree with the article...but I learned so very very little.
arofibook
1 / 5 (1) Jun 21, 2011
Baloney. When was the last time any of this kinda stuff really actually worked? A generation ago?
hashy
5 / 5 (5) Jun 21, 2011
....And that voltage and current would be??? Worthless article


It was in the actual research paper:
"The voltage output of up to 40 mV and current
transients up to 200 pA, compare very well to published
results for nanowire generators of 30 mV and 100 pA which were shown to be suitable for powering nanosensors. [ 24 ] The effective power generated is 250 W mm^- 2 at 5.0 mN force."
BigRiver
5 / 5 (1) Jun 22, 2011
Blue lasers were developed in 1996 and took more than a decade to hit the mainstream. Considering the rate of acceleration of technology development, we can reasonably expect to see high-end or experimental devices by 2015.

By then, i am hoping (pardon the laymen term) 3d printers will be as common as microwave ovens. Certainly, the burden of caring for a device will be fading in due time.
FastEddy
1 / 5 (2) Jun 23, 2011
" ... And that voltage and current would be??? Worthless article ..." If one wanted all of his ideas in the market place before the patents and royalty protections are in place, one should not give away the farm.

This article is very worthwhile.
compton
2.3 / 5 (3) Jun 24, 2011
".. used to convert blood pressure into a power source for pacemakers - essentially creating an everlasting battery"

Sounds like a bit of a dangerous feedback loop! if your blood pressure drops too much, it's gonna shut down your heart!?
hashy
5 / 5 (2) Jun 24, 2011
Sounds like a bit of a dangerous feedback loop! if your blood pressure drops too much, it's gonna shut down your heart!?


The blood pressure is used to charge the battery. The battery will have to completely discharge before your heart is at risk, which should be ample time.
Cave_Man
1 / 5 (1) Jun 26, 2011
....And that voltage and current would be??? Worthless article


It was in the actual research paper:
"The voltage output of up to 40 mV and current
transients up to 200 pA, compare very well to published
results for nanowire generators of 30 mV and 100 pA which were shown to be suitable for powering nanosensors. [ 24 ] The effective power generated is 250 W mm^- 2 at 5.0 mN force."


5.0 millinewtons and you get 250w per sq mm?

If that is correct then in 100 years the entire world will be powered by the growth of one tree covered in this thin film.

All jokes aside I see the potential for a different type of wind or water or geothermal power that could potentially supply more energy than we would even need, thank you nano science and screw you thermodynamics (fusion)
Dug
1 / 5 (1) Jun 27, 2011
For everyone who was disappointed in this article because it's lack of quantitative detail - YOU WERE RIGHT TO BE DISAPPOINTED.
Ramael
not rated yet Jun 30, 2011
Sounds like a bit of a dangerous feedback loop! if your blood pressure drops too much, it's gonna shut down your heart!?


The blood pressure is used to charge the battery. The battery will have to completely discharge before your heart is at risk, which should be ample time.


So does that mean your heart could keep beating for a while even if you bleed out and die?! ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE!!!! AAHHH! lmao
Shelgeyr
1 / 5 (1) Jun 30, 2011
Ramael, I must preface this by saying that "inappropriate" is one of my family's very favorite types of humor.

True story - when my father died, I stood over him in the ER and asked my mom (who I knew would not have a problem with this, but - you know, out of courtesy) if she'd mind me asking an inappropriate question. Getting the all-clear go-ahead, I wondered out loud if his pacemaker was still trying to get his heart to beat (I was, after all, actually curious about that), but I think I got the tone of the question just right because it cut the tension and made her laugh. Some things work as jokes even when they're really not.

And yes - and I absolutely promise this is true - I even mentioned zombies (how grateful we could all be that he wasn't one) in the eulogy I gave at his funeral.

It went over very well.