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Randolpho's Journal: Georgia Tech Unveils Prototype Nanogenerator 208

Journal by Randolpho
Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology have created a working prototype nanogenerator capable of generating as much as 4 watts per cubic centimeter of continuous direct current. The generators are green (to use), drawing power from natural motion in the surrounding environment. They are based on non-toxic chemicals and should be safe for use in biomechanical implants, but that's not their only potential use. From the article:

"If you had a device like this in your shoes when you walked, you would be able to generate your own small current to power small electronics," Wang noted. "Anything that makes the nanowires move within the generator can be used for generating power. Very little force is required to move them."

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Georgia Tech Unveils Prototype Nanogenerator

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  • Who is John Galt? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by superwiz (655733) on Wednesday April 11, 2007 @01:49PM (#18692067) Journal
    Isn't this essentially his engine? Never thought that piece of science fiction would come to life.
  • I needed one of these to power my iPod Femto for 3 seconds.
  • by grahamsz (150076) on Wednesday April 11, 2007 @01:51PM (#18692095) Homepage Journal
    I wonder if i could generate enough energy from my hands shaking to power my espresso machine. that would be useful :)
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Orange Crush (934731) *
      Typical espresso machines are on the order of 1-2 kilowatts. If your hands are shaking that badly there's probably more than just caffeine in your latte.
      • by shaitand (626655)
        'Typical espresso machines are on the order of 1-2 kilowatts.'

        If that is correct then I wonder how surprised your average green would be to discover they do more damage to the environment with the coal generated power required for their visits to Starbucks then any SUV driver.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          'Typical espresso machines are on the order of 1-2 kilowatts.'

          If that is correct then I wonder how surprised your average green would be to discover they do more damage to the environment with the coal generated power required for their visits to Starbucks then any SUV driver.

          Pretty fucking surprised, considering that it takes around 25 horsepower just to keep a car moving at cruising speed. That's 18.6424968 kW. It generally takes at least tens of minutes to drive to work, but it takes only a minute o

    • Because I'm bored (Score:3, Informative)

      by CogDissident (951207)
      Ok, so assume your wearing gloves on your hands. And your hands are (work with me here, this is a complete guess) about 15 centimeters long by 10 wide, thats 150 cubic centimeters. However, you need your hands in there, so only about 1/8th of that is useable space, so 18.75 cubic centimeters that you could put on gloves and not have a huge problem with. According to his 4 watts per cubic centimeter, we're looking at about the power of a lightbulb (75 watts), per hand. An espresso machine is 1100 watts.
      You'
    • Give it to relatives with Parkinson's. (-1, Not Funny Dude)
    • by operagost (62405)
      Sounds like perpetual motion machine, so you wouldn't be able to patent it... or would you?
  • drawing power from natural motion in the surrounding environment.

    I've hade some serious hatred issues with people who buy 2GW subwoofers and drive down my road. Would these nanogenerators significantly increase their output in such situations? Or are the subwoofer-produced sound frequencies too low for these generators to convert to energy?

    • While it would be nice to make hay of other people's rudeness, I think there is only one appropriate response to someone who's driving around with music so loud (or bass-boosted) that it rattles the door panels of their vehicles: a rocket-propelled grenade aimed squarely up the glass-pack.
      • I don't even know why they're legal. I mean, I can't think of any meaningful use of them in a car that doesn't annoy the hell out of other drivers. What assholes. Any way to get back at them without getting shot?
        • by DAtkins (768457)
          Duh.. loud stereos hurt your ears. Therefore you need louder a stereo after a few months. It's an ever increasing cycle, with the express purpose of annoying you.

          Also, loud music is fun.

          Slashdot: news for nerds, commentary by geriatrics.
          • by andphi (899406)
            Geriatric? I'm not even a tricenarian!

            I agree. Loud music is fun. Music that is so loud it is lending significant energy to other objects, however, is not fun.

      • I wonder how difficult it would be to make a DIY microwave "pain gun"...
        • by andphi (899406)
          It might be more fitting to use infrasound or LRAD against those who are overly generous with their music. I'd be afraid of cooking the wrong person with a microwave gun.
      • by metlin (258108) *
        Oh I couldn't agree more. Every time I hear the bass go off, it literally hurts my ears - and I shudder to think of the person inside the car. They're all probably going to go deaf at a very young age.
  • Kinetic (Score:5, Funny)

    by Reason58 (775044) on Wednesday April 11, 2007 @01:52PM (#18692125)
    Quite a few years ago I had a watch [seikousa.com] powered by the exact same principle. Merely walking around would generate the power it needed to keep itself running. Unfortunately as I got more and more into computers I found the watch holding less and less of a charge, until eventually it stopped working altogether. If I had to choose between movement and a watch or computers I would have to say I'm glad there's a clock in the bottom right corner of the screen.
  • The political situation in many countries makes me concerned for the future, nanotechnology gives me hope that humanity is still progressing in its development.
    Also, we're seeing more and more of these "something useful from nanotech" articles. I'm hoping this means the original rounds of research are beginning to come to fruition, and we'll see consumer products in 4-10 years.
    • Re:Even though... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Wednesday April 11, 2007 @02:03PM (#18692333)

      The political situation in many countries makes me concerned for the future, nanotechnology gives me hope that humanity is still progressing in its development.

      It seems to me that this technology makes humans more powerful, but not better. If this technology would only fall into the hands of persons who are well-intentioned, well-informed, and intelligent, that would be a good thing. But I think technology in general empowers both good and evil acts. So I'm not sure that advancing technology is clear-cut progress.

      Don't get me wrong - when I'm in the hospital, I certainly want advanced tech. And when my car crashes, or my home needs power, ditto. But some former citizens of Hiroshima an Nagasaki probably have somewhat mixed feelings on the issue.

      • I said hope, not certainty. I'm not falling for an fallacy of optimism, just saying that there are at least some ways in which good things are arriving in this day and age and it helps me fight off my relentless cynicism.
      • But some former citizens of Hiroshima an Nagasaki probably have somewhat mixed feelings on the issue.

        Indeed, their assumption of racial superiority was dealt a severe blow. That was a good act if I've ever heard of one.
      • by owlstead (636356)
        "But some former citizens of Hiroshima an Nagasaki probably have somewhat mixed feelings on the issue."

        No they don't. That's the point of being a "former citizen".

  • by Pharmboy (216950) on Wednesday April 11, 2007 @01:57PM (#18692213) Journal
    Couldn't this be used to make a self-powered Wii? Lord knows, I'm jumping around like a monkey when I play on that thing.
  • by oskard (715652) on Wednesday April 11, 2007 @02:00PM (#18692265)
    Somebody should attempt to coat the blades of a windmill with these.
    • Make a tinsel like device that flaps in the breeze.

      Coat flags in it!
  • I thought this was covered on Slashdot next week.

    This thing works a lot like a piezoelectric fire-starter. [wikipedia.org] I think that 4W/cc potential output power is a peak, not continuous. This may have specialized uses, like powering wristwatches, but it's not a major power source.

    • Thus my suggestion above, which is an adaptation of an alternative idea from the 1970s using a field of pizeoelectric crystals. This is just a generation method, not the actual power input or output. It just occurs to me that these nanogenerators might be a bit easier to solder to than a bunch of quartz.....
    • by gstoddart (321705)

      I thought this was covered on Slashdot next week.

      Sorry, we strictly work in this timeframe here on Slashdot.

      We'll address any dupes which occur next week then, otherwise it takes all of the fun out of it. ;-)

      Cheers
  • by wsanders (114993) on Wednesday April 11, 2007 @02:14PM (#18692507) Homepage
    Ballmer to demo at CES: A laptop you can power by throwing it across the room!
  • FTA: "...the generators produce a direct current output in the nano-Ampere range."

    Summary could be a little more accurate, seems that in absolutely perfect conditions it could mathematically produce 4W. Who knows what the real world efficiency would be.

    "...with optimization, their nanogenerator could produce as much as 4 watts per cubic centimeter - based on a calculation for a single nanowire."

    Still could be a very useful device, especially if it's durable enough and can be produced cheaply enough to integ
  • When years ago I got a self-winding watch, I thought of putting such a mechanism in a backpack that the single-digit-set would be strapped into. Every day its spring could be discharged into some sort of energy reservoir. This would both harness kids' inexhaustible energy and slow them down a bit.

    Now we have an unobtrusive direct-to-battery technology. Lets get some useful work out of those tykes!
    • Bah. Namby-pamby. Chain them to treadmills and shoot them full of raw adrenaline.
    • I wonder if we could get kids to run in hamster wheels hooked up to generators. "Um, yeah Bobby, running in the big wheel is FUN! [and saves on energy costs] Oh, and uh, God likes it when you do that, too. [Hope this doesn't mess up his theological views later in life...]"
  • BFD (Score:2, Informative)

    by jbeaupre (752124)
    As someone who's spent over a decade with piezo materials, let me very clear: BFD. This is not a new effect, this is not higher efficiency, it's not even new to be non-toxic. They just made it small. Granted, they used the ZnO to both generate and rectify the current, so that might make it useful (as the article states) for nano devices. But for larger stuff, run of the mill piezo materials offer higher D33, Q, etc. Some simple circuitry and you're off and running. Difficult? Nope! I built the gener
    • Yes indeed. This is presumably of some minor interest to those working in the field. Actually, probably a bit more than that, since it was published in Science rather than in some more specialized journal.

      But by the time it hits the press release phase, and then the press release hits the breathless-Slashdot-summary phase, you get a minor accomplishment turned into the Second Coming. We saw the same thing last week with the solar-cell pigments, and many times before that.

      I've always imagined that the sci
  • Self winding watches anyone? Pedometers?

    They both have pendulums in them that spin when you move. The watch winds a spring, the pedometer spins a gear system to log the distance you've walked. How hard would it be to take that concept and use the pendulums to spin little generators? Put one in your cell phone so that as you walk around it recharges itself. Duh..

    There's a lot of ways this could be put to use.

    I'm 100% in love with the idea of a pollution free "self powered world" where everything is powe
  • Couldn't waves activate these nicely...
  • The 4W/cc was quoted as the maximum possible output AFTER optimization based on the generation capabilities of a single wire. 4W/cc would be a very impressive output for biomedical implant type applications, but currently the generator chips are putting out current on the nano-amp scale. So, this technology is in its infancy, but considering there wasn't anything available for powering nano tech sized devices (which only need nano-amp current) this could be huge for powered nano-scale devices. As far as
  • How little power? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by l8f57 (652468) on Wednesday April 11, 2007 @02:49PM (#18693005)
    Very little force is required to move them.
    Only about 4watts/cm2
  • Car: It'll bring a new meaning to the word 'kick-start' or 'jump-start'.

    Notebook, well it says natural motion, and it's nano-machine based, so I'm guessing this is just air motion and maybe slight vibration... My notebook won't know what to do with all the power it generates
  • The ones that are tossed around, i mean.
  • Green to use (Score:3, Informative)

    by Bromskloss (750445) <auxiliary.addres ... ]com ['il.' in > on Wednesday April 11, 2007 @03:09PM (#18693289)

    The generators are green (to use), drawing power from natural motion in the surrounding environment.

    My friend the principle of energy conservation told me that they are no more green to use than that which causes the motion in the surrounding environment (probably a little less).

  • Yea, and there are devices capable of generating electricity from just the wind, or sunlight, or tidal waves. But they are not competitive due to the high price.

    What would be interesting in this article would be:

    a) What would they cost compared to a NiMH battery?
    b) How long would they last?

    This is why medical applications is probably the are where this is most interesting. In medicine you often want very small long-lasting power sources that doesn't require surgery to replace. Don't expect to power
  • Couldn't these be used in hybrid vehicles to help charge the battery? Would help recover more lost energy and make the vehicle more efficient.
  • "If you had a device like this in your shoes when you walked, you would be able to generate your own small current to power small electronics,"
    You just know that one of the early stories will be about some freak who connects this to a device shoved up his butt.

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