The conversion of kinetic energy to electricity has been appreciated and applied in huge hydroelectric power plants, water dams, and wind mills. Chinese researchers from Fudan University have recently shown that the same concept can be applied to electric power generation in bloodstreams for medical devices applications, which has been tested successfully with frog nerves.
The research team, led by Huisheng Peng, has made this minute energy-harvesting device possible by fabricating an ordered array of carbon nanotubes surrounding polymeric fiber. The thickness of the carbon nanotube sheets that coat the polymeric core is less than 500 nanometers. To generate electricity, the resulting fiber-shaped fluidic nanogenerator (FFNG) is connected to electrodes and dipped into flowing water or salt solution.
“The electricity was derived from the relative movement between the FFNG and the solution,” explains the scientists. The flow of salt solution distorts the symmetrical charge distribution existing around the fiber. This distortion then generates electrical gradient along the fabric’s axis.
FFNG has shown a superior energy conversion efficiency of over 20%, aside from its light weight, elasticity, and one-dimensionality. It may also find its application in powering small wearable electronic and medical devices. More details about the technology can be found in Angewandte Chemie journal.