Electricity from the nose: Engineers make power from human respiration

Oct 04, 2011 by Jim Beal
Graduate Student Jian Shi and Materials Science and Engineering Assistant Professor Xudong Wang demonstrate a material that could be used to capture energy from respiration.

(PhysOrg.com) -- The same piezoelectric effect that ignites your gas grill with the push of a button could one day power sensors in your body via the respiration in your nose.

Writing in the September issue of the journal and Environmental Science, Materials Science and Engineering Assistant Professor Xudong Wang, postdoctoral Researcher Chengliang Sun and graduate student Jian Shi report creating a plastic microbelt that vibrates when passed by low-speed airflow such as human .

In certain materials, such as the polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) used by Wang’s team, an electric charge accumulates in response to applied mechanical stress. This is known as the . The researchers engineered PVDF to generate sufficient electrical energy from respiration to operate small electronic devices.

“Basically, we are harvesting mechanical energy from biological systems. The of normal human respiration is typically below about two meters per second,” says Wang. “We calculated that if we could make this material thin enough, small vibrations could produce a microwatt of electrical energy that could be useful for sensors or other devices implanted in the face.”

Researchers are taking advantage of advances in nanotechnology and miniaturized electronics to develop a host of biomedical devices that could monitor blood glucose for diabetics or keep a pacemaker battery charged so that it would not need replacing. What’s needed to run these tiny devices is a miniscule power supply. Waste energy in the form or blood flow, motion, heat, or in this case respiration, offers a consistent source of power.

Wang’s team used an ion-etching process to carefully thin material while preserving its piezoelectric properties. With improvements, he believes the thickness can be controlled down to the submicron level. Because PVDF is biocompatible, he says the development represents a significant advance toward creating a practical micro-scale device for harvesting energy from respiration.

Explore further: Novel capability enables first test of real turbine engine conditions

Related Stories

Raiders of the lost amp

Jul 05, 2011

Energy harvesting is a process that captures energy that would otherwise be lost as heat, light, sound, vibration or motion. It can use this captured energy to improve the efficiency of existing systems or even to power new ...

New material could efficiently power tiny generators

Oct 22, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- To power a very small device like a pacemaker or a transistor, you need an even smaller generator. The components that operate the generator are smaller yet, and the efficiency of those foundational components ...

Running Hamsters Can Power Nano Devices (Video)

Feb 12, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Among the vast number of untapped energy sources are finger taps, heartbeats, and even hamsters running on exercise wheels. In a recent study, researchers from Georgia Tech have shown that ...

Nanogenerators for energy harvesting technology

Jul 09, 2010

The journal, Nano Letters, recently published an article highlighting the fascinating nanogenerators developed by Dr. Yong Shi, a professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department at Stevens Institute of Technology. The pa ...

Recommended for you

Congress: Safety agency mishandled GM recall

14 hours ago

Both houses of Congress scolded the U.S. highway safety agency Tuesday over its tardy handling of a deadly problem with General Motors cars, questioning whether it is competent to guarantee the safety of ...

Jindal: Obama hasn't done enough to harness energy

Sep 16, 2014

The governor of the state of Louisiana, a possible Republican presidential candidate, said Tuesday that President Barack Obama's administration has become "science deniers," failing to do enough to harness the nation's energy ...

User comments : 6

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Isaacsname
not rated yet Oct 04, 2011
Awesome, wait...in the nose......how would you keep it clean ?

physpuppy
not rated yet Oct 04, 2011
Man that invention blows!

Oh wait - sniff - anyone got a tissue?

:-)
Isaacsname
4.5 / 5 (2) Oct 04, 2011
This is just strange because I can think of all sorts of great applications for this, but none of them involve my bodily orifices.
antonima
not rated yet Oct 05, 2011
Get a whiff of this - in 2050, cocaine users power Columbia!
NANOBRAIN
not rated yet Oct 09, 2011
ahhhh shewww!
G_Arrt
1 / 5 (1) Oct 11, 2011
I am deeply disappointed this is even in the news.

Why not use the latest energy harvesting ICs and appropriate transducer(s) and stick the integrated pkg up the other body orifices (particularly the one at the lower end --Who knows, it may even prevent certain disease and possibly become a candidate for the next revised Nobel.)

This is not even high school worthy. If we truly consider this news worthy / Engineering innovation we are truly lost.

It seems, above all else, we seem to be in a race to get anything and everything that we sneeze up at the dinner table to the patent office. (I wonder if they are looking for any other orifices?)

On the other hand it may become the in-thing/latest fashion-trend, to power up those smart phones, just breath a little faster ..oh..oh you're almost there.
(At last we have a means to outdo the iPhone).

Just my rantings: I hope no one is offended - ABOVE ALL, please keep in mind this ONLY the opinion of one truly disappointed individual.