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back to article Human heart could power an iPod

Scientists have developed the first commercially viable nanogenerator, which could pave the way for the human heart to become a charger for our electrical gizmos. The nanogenerator device is a flexible chip with millions of zinc oxide nanowires that when flexed induce a piezoelectric effect, delivering a tiny amount of …

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Thermodynamics...

"However, in time, we could see such piezoelectric nanogenerators put in the soles of our shoes, or utilising movement from rolling car tyres, even harnessing wind to deliver additional sources of energy. "

There was once an idea to put rollers in busy roads and use cars passing over them to generate electricity. This was dropped because that energy gets added to the fuel bill of the car. These will have the same effect. Of course, if they turn out to be more efficient than an alternator then what a great idea. Probably make tyres more expensive though.

Similar arguement applies to attaching these things to the body.

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Forget tyres

using these anywhere on the drivetrain of a car will add to an increase in fuel costs for the car.

there is only one place on a car that would be a suitable spot for using these, its almost always in motion and yet the energy causing the motion is 100% waste (so using a little of it would be a gain)

the ideal spot would be in the shock absorbers, every bump in the road (however slight), every corner or change in speed would all generate a little extra electricity

at least then when you go over a pothole you actually get something useful back from it in the form of electricity

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Paris Hilton

@Thermodynamics

"Similar arguement applies to attaching these things to the body."

Of course, but then the question is: how much of an effort is it? Will an additional thin layer in your show soles or on the fabric of your pants make a discernible difference?

Anyway, people are so fat nowadays that I'd say it's a GOOD idea to make them spend more energy by whatever means.

Paris because she spends a lot of energy.

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Stop

One more?

Wouldn't brake systems qualify too? I mean, for the non-hybrids at least, since the hybrids already do this by other means. Even in hybrids, could this be another, additional way of taking the breaking energy? I'm no engineer, let alone an automotive one, so I don't really know... Stop for the brakes, of course. :-)

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Boffin

re: One more?

Good drivers don't need regenerative braking - if you brake as little as possible (i.e. rely on engine braking for the majority of the time), you're getting as much out of the car as a hybrid would. Read the road ahead and react to it accordingly.

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WTF?

Really?

Unless you end up going out for a run just to charge your iPod then yes, you could indeed argue that point but attaching these to the body to harness power from your everyday movement would not incur addiotnal energy costs elsewhere. For instance walking to shops to get the paper wouldn't be any more energy intensive wearing one than without.

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not 100% accurate

though you are right about the shocks, you are wrong about it being the ONLY place on the car this works.

Aerodynamic generators cause drag and are not an option, nor is anything in-line with the drive train. However, recuperative braking is a good plan already in wide use.

As for the tires, there IS a potential here. As tires hit the road, due to the road surface and the weight of the car, they flex. Look at a tire, it is a bit flatter and the side walls flex out at the bottom than the top. As it rotates, the rubber is under constant movement between 2 modes of shape, top and bottom of the tire. Part of this is for comfort in the ride, part of it is limitations in materials that apply grip. the tire must flex, and this flex is generally a given in determining fuel economy. Removing the flex is possible, but only at a negligible difference in fuel savings and a great sacrifice in ride quality (or a necessary high expense in shocks/spring augmentation to counterbalance the rougher ride).

The flexing is not caused by forward momentum, it is caused by gravity, and the resistance of the pavement. these are forces the engine is immune to, the exact reason shocks could generate power with equally limited impact. Taking advantage of that flexing inside the material of the tire using these sensors shuold impart near-zero fuel impact (only in so much as the added few pounds of mass). No part of the fuel system would be impacted by using this flex property, and it is highly likely that this flexing could generate more energy tha the fuel expense in moving the small extra weight. it is simply an engineering challenge to figure out how to design the tire to include the micro-generators in a durable fashion, and subsequent systems to deliver tire power to the car's batteries or electric motor.

Like shock power generation, this is no perpetual motion machine. It might generate 10% of what the car needs in energy to move forward at best (and that's a big guess!). The question is, would the cost of this system (which would be naturally a part of the tire that would be replaced with it, dramatically increasing tire cost) outweigh the cost and efficincy losses of simply having more battery installed to go the same additional range? If we're planning on generating the power cleanly either way 30-40 years from now, does it matter if it;s generated while driving or in a power planty if 90% of the cars power will still come from a plant? this would only make sense if it would pretty much be guaranteed to be cheaper than more batteries.

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FAIL

@OP

"This was dropped because that energy gets added to the fuel bill of the car. These will have the same effect."

Since the tyres are already being forced to rotate and stretch/compress, placing these around the circumference (or tyre wall, depending on the most optimal locale) would cause no extra fuel consumption, minus the miniscule additional weight added to the outside circumference on the tyre, thus requiring a very very small additional force to move the tyre. You'd see more work required to spin your tyre with a nail stuck in it. This tech would be a great way to replace an alternator if the vehicle could disengage the alternator while the tyres were producing enough 'leccy to run the car components. 5 of these layered could equal an AA battery, and they're smaller than a stamp, so you could likely outfit a fairly decent power source considering the surface area of a single tyre. Just stick it all in one tyre and leave the other 3 as normal rubber and at least you'll reduce the odds of having to replace an expensive tyre to 1 in 4 in the event of a blowout/puncture/etc.

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I did think about the tyres

I did think of the tyres but dismissed them due to a short lifespan.

I suggested the shock absorbers since they are replaced at a far lower frequency than tyres while also only being stressed in one direction, tyres get flexed in all sorts of directions (while cornering etc) while this is fine for rubber a circuit similar to the one shown is probably designed to flex in one or 2 directions.

as an example I have just had to finally replace the rear shocks for the first time on my 20 year old range rover (not because they had failed but simply because the metal housing was rusting to nothing) in contrast I go through a set of tyres in around 2 years (sometimes less due to damage) If I was looking to add power generation to a part of a vehicle I would target something that will last a long time (to better offset the cost of the extra technology), also it would be far simpler to run wiring from the shocks to get hold of the power generated than it would from a tyre that by its very nature is rotating and moving up and down in relation to the rest of the vehicle.

the more I think about the tyre option the worse it sounds..

it wears out fast and is prone to damage, the only way of getting power generated by the tyre would be through some form of induction, this would mean that the car would have to be made to work with the tyre and would introduce drag from the induced current

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Paris Hilton

"Free" energy

Erm, everyone surely knows though that there's no such thing as free energy, it's coming from somewhere. In this case, taking energy away from pumping blood around your body and making your heart work harder even when at rest. I question the health of such a device..

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Boffin

Pedantic much?

That may technically be true but how much extra energy do you think you're going to burn by wearing one? Read the article again, very little movement required to powered something smaller than a postage stamp.

I'm assuming you wouldn't need to attach it directly to the heart either, simply placing placing it in the correct spot on your chest would also suffice.

This is a device that's been designed to make more efficient use of the energy you're already burning off just by existing and posting on El Reg, it's not going to require you to put any more effort into anything,

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meh

Compared to the joules the body generates in a day, this is chump change. You spend more energy than you iPod uses by-nervously shaking a leg under your desk for a few hours. Also, the heart grows to accommodate the demand. A tiny extra effort required might actually prevent some forms of heart disease. Keep in mind the common uses for this might also be keeping something like a pacemaker running, insulin balancers, micro-dose medication systems, etc, health conditions much more critical and guaranteed life threatening vs a minor workout for a muscle that would grow to accommodate the strain.

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Jobs Halo

No Doubt

that nice Mr Jobs will now lay claim to out internal orgams

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Dead Vulture

termination

hmm, this brings new meaning to "iTunes account termination" :p

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ok, but...

If (for arguments sake) you had one of these doo-hickey's rigged up to your heart, and you wanted to charge your iPod, you would not need some sort of dermal USB implant into which you can plug your charge cable... (said implant being hooked up to said doo-hicky of course)

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Boffin

hmm

So thats how they used humans as batteries in the Matrix

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Milestone?

"This development represents a milestone toward producing portable electronics that can be powered by body movements without the use of batteries or electrical outlets"

So the watches that wind themselves, lighters that generate the ignition spark from the force of you pressing the button, remote controls powered by the movement of picking them up and wireless light-switches powered by the force of you pressing the button don't already exist? I'm not even counting wind-up radios or torches because you have to put concious effort into them, but they too are powered by body movements without batteries.

And they are just from movement. There are also the thermopile powered things (although I think only really prototypes so far) that for example allow a watch to be powered from your body heat being higher than the ambient temperature.

I'm not being a killjoy and saying that their thing is not good; just that it's not such a milestone.

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Grenade

portable electronics that can be powered by body movements

"So the watches that wind themselves, lighters that generate the ignition spark from the force of you pressing the button"

Hm... as far as I know both are *mechanical*, not electronic.

"remote controls powered by the movement of picking them up and wireless light-switches powered by the force of you pressing the button"

That's stretching the definition of *powered* quite a lot, isn't it? And anyway, they fall in you second category of "you have to put concious (sic) effort into them", don't they?

A grenade might as well be body powered if we think like that...

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Anonymous Coward

Electromechanical

They all convert mechanical motion to electrical energy, so all are electromechanical generators. The lighters, and possibly the wireless switches, use a piezoelectric material to do this, just like the new thingy. Since they don't have any other source of power it's no stretch to say they're motion powered.

There really isn't enough information in the report to say whether this invention is useful or not. Piezoelectric films have been around for years. Presumably this new thing is either more efficient , cheaper or easier to use. Or it's just a good way to get some press and some funding.

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maybe not tyres...

But I could see an application for these to fit a slightly out-of-round propshaft and wrap these nanogenerators around it so that the uneven pressure spins on the inside and generates power for the car.

Obviously the nanogenerator sleeve doesn't rotate.

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Coat

Could it power-

a pacemaker?

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Coat

That's amazing

...and is going to find its way into all manner of products in the future. I think I have just invented a glove which, when worn by someone who is *ahem* pleasuring themselves, generates enough current to re-charge an iPod. Perhaps it could be linked back tot he iPod in such a way that a smutty video is only displayed when the user reaches a specified level of current generation. I think I'll call it the iSpank, or perhaps the iBash......

That's mine over there, with the zinc oxide nanowires all over the back....

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Toe bend?

These could be placed against the foot and flexed whilst walking/running to keep your pmp charged whilst jogging for instance or your mobile topped up whilst walking around the office - all without any invasive surgery, just need a cable run up your trouser leg.

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Massive potential?

So how easily could these be mass-produced? What about a few hundred thousand of them waving in the current under a floating platform? Implanting them under pavements?

Could be an awesome universal mechanical to electrical energy converter, depending on the efficiency. Maybe use it to harness every ounce of juice from vibrations in power station equipment? Provide cheap electricity off-grid? Lots of potential, if it can be made by the milion.

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FAIL

That's no good

Have they no got one that runs off a sheeps heart?

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Better than a bottle dynamo?

Eccentric cams on a pedal cycle (maybe in the BB) would be a good application, nice discreet powerful "dynamo"

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Coat

Important question.

How many slaves do I have to implant these into to charge a Tesla Roadster overnight for free?

The long black cape with "Evil Overlord" picked out on the back in skulls please.

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jiggly legs

I like this idea a lot. Stick a couple of them in the feet of my trainers and my incessant fidgetting will have more purpose than just making my monitor wobble.

I wonder if you could embed them in lamp posts so that their wind caused wobblings could charge internal batteries?

If they could make massive amounts, they could replace underlay in office carpets, so all the people walking up and down stairs could help offset the air con bills.

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awful article

Ok, so it can generate 3V. But no mention is made of the amount of current produced. Without that figure the article is useless.

I suspect it generates much less than 100mA. The ipod takes over 700mA so it can't power the device!

Maybe get an engineer to write your technical articles as some of us are engineers and don't like being treated to fairytales.

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In the referenced article

It states in the article that it produces only 1 micro ampere, (that's 5 stacked on each other). But they're only stamped sized, so you should be able to ramp that up.

Still a tiny amount though.

Are you sure about your Ipod requirements though? Since the battery is only around 1200mah (http://www.mdsbattery.co.uk/shop/productprofile.asp?ProductGroupID=1952), so your figure would surely suggest they only run for less than 2 hours before dying, as opposed to the 40 hours that websites seem to suggest (for music, 7 hours for videos)...

So for music I guess were looking at 30mah, which is about 84micro amps, so 420 of these little fellows (84 stacks of 5).

Which isn't too terrible, but isn't good enough to fit on the soles of your feet alone just yet.

Obviously rate at which they are being flexed will have an affect. Lots of unanswered questions, but they aren't completely unfeasible. A lot of places we would use them would have lots of mass (tire flexing as discussed) and so more than just stacks of 5 could be used)

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Go

Artificial trees that don't suck?

Paste these to the back of the "Solar Leaves" I've been hearing so much about and you've got a bloody sensible device. Generate power in wind or sun. And most of the design problem's have already been solved by actual trees.

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Green Energy

Have a layer of these in the mattress and then plugged back into the grid. You and your partner can then get all hot and sweaty for the environment.

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