Engineers Make Power From Human Respiration

Engineers Make Power From Human Respiration

I once read somewhere,

Remember, no matter how bad you are you are not totally useless. You can still be used as a bad example.

Well as we advance towards shrinking things to the size of nanometers, even the useless are turning into assets. Thus here, Materials Science and Engineering Professor Xudong Wang, postdoctoral Researcher Chengliang Sun and graduate student Jian Shi are busy finding ways to turn our  respiration into a potential source of energy, and that too electrical.

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This is made possible by the wondrous piezoelectric effect. It is the phenomena by which some crystals such as that of lead zirconate titanate (PZT), acquire a charge when compressed, twisted or distorted. This provides a transducing effect for converting mechanical energy into electrical.

The researchers have built a micro-belt (which again is another wonder of nanotechnology). This belt responds to the airflow as slow as that of respiration, in the form of oscillations. The material used here is polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) and is engineered to harvest energy sufficient to power small electronic devices. PVDF is biocompatible and does not pose any threat to the human health.

As stated by one of the researchers, efforts are being made to harvest mechanical energy through biological systems. The idea of this very project was to build a material thin enough to vibrate due to the force exerted by ever moving breaths. To implement this idea nanotechnology and miniaturized electronics were brought into use. The target here is to design a mechanism for powering biomedical devices such as pace makers and those used to monitor blood glucose levels in the body (especially for diabetics).

These biomedical devices are planted inside the body and need batteries for power. The patients need to be operated periodically to replace the batteries with the new ones. By the use of waste energy such as blood flow, inevitable motions, heat and respiration, such device can have a constant power supply.

The team lead by Wang used ion-etching process for getting the suitable breadth without compromising the piezoelectric properties of the material. They are of the opinion that further developments can bring the belts thickness down to submicron level.

So here, we the “bad” people have another reason to feel good of and that is,

We can breathe to produce electricity!!