Cellulose nanogenerators could one day power implanted biomedical devices

January 27, 2016

Implantable electronics that can deliver drugs, monitor vital signs and perform other health-related roles are on the horizon. But finding a way to power them remains a challenge. Now scientists have built a flexible nanogenerator out of cellulose, an abundant natural material, that could potentially harvest energy from the body—its heartbeats, blood flow and other almost imperceptible but constant movements. Their report appears in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

Efforts to convert the energy of motion—from footsteps, ocean waves, wind and other movement sources—are well underway. Many of these developing technologies are designed with the goal of powering everyday gadgets and even buildings. As such, they don't need to bend and are often made with stiff materials. But to power biomedical devices inside the body, a flexible generator could provide more versatility. So Md. Mehebub Alam and Dipankar Mandal at Jadavpur University in India set out to design one.

The researchers turned to , the most abundant biopolymer on earth, and mixed it in a simple process with a kind of silicone called polydimethylsiloxane—the stuff of breast implants—and carbon nanotubes. Repeated pressing on the resulting nanogenerator lit up about two dozen LEDs instantly. It also charged capacitors that powered a portable LCD, a calculator and a wrist watch. And because cellulose is non-toxic, the researchers say the device could potentially be implanted in the body and harvest its internal stretches, vibrations and other movements.

Explore further: Vibration energy the secret to self-powered electronics

More information: Md. Mehebub Alam et al. Native Cellulose Microfiber-Based Hybrid Piezoelectric Generator for Mechanical Energy Harvesting Utility, ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces (2016). DOI: 10.1021/acsami.5b08168

Abstract
A flexible hybrid piezoelectric generator (HPG) based on native cellulose microfiber (NCMF) and polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) with multi wall carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs) as conducting filler is presented where the further chemical treatment of the cellulose and traditional electrical poling steps for piezoelectric voltage generation is avoided. It delivers a high electrical throughput that is an open circuit voltage of ∼30 V and power density ∼9.0 μW/cm3 under repeated hand punching. We demonstrate to power up various portable electronic units by HPG. Because cellulose is a biocompatible material, suggesting that HPG may have greater potential in biomedical applications such as implantable power source in human body.

Related Stories

Energy device for flexible electronics packs a lot of power

May 7, 2014

While flexible gadgets such as "electronic skin" and roll-up touch screens are moving ever closer to reality, their would-be power sources are either too wimpy or too stiff. But that's changing fast. Scientists have developed ...

Flexible, biodegradable device can generate power from touch

August 12, 2015

Long-standing concerns about portable electronics include the devices' short battery life and their contribution to e-waste. One group of scientists is now working on a way to address both of these seeming unrelated issues ...

Recommended for you

Neuromorphic computing mimics important brain feature

August 18, 2016

(Phys.org)—When you hear a sound, only some of the neurons in the auditory cortex of your brain are activated. This is because every auditory neuron is tuned to a certain range of sound, so that each neuron is more sensitive ...

'Artificial atom' created in graphene

August 22, 2016

In a tiny quantum prison, electrons behave quite differently as compared to their counterparts in free space. They can only occupy discrete energy levels, much like the electrons in an atom - for this reason, such electron ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.