Electricity from the nose?

Engineers claim they are working on a technique which would generate power from human respiration.

Washington: Electricity from the nose? Well, it may appear weird, but engineers claim they are working on a technique which would generate power from human respiration.

A team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison says that it is actually working on a method which would someday power sensors in one`s body via the respiration in one`s nose, the `Energy and Environmental Science` journal reported.

The engineers have already created a plastic microbelt that vibrates when passed by low-speed airflow such as human respiration.

In certain materials, such as the polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF), an electric charge accumulates in response to applied mechanical stress. This is known as the piezoelectric effect.

The team engineered PVDF to generate sufficient electrical energy from respiration to operate small electronic devices.

Professor Xudong Wang, who led the team, said: "Basically we are harvesting mechanical energy from biological systems.

The airflow of normal human respiration is typically below about two meters per second.
"We calculated that if we could make this material thin enough, small vibrations could produce a microwatt of electrical energy that could be useful for sensors or other devices implanted in the face."

In its research, the team is taking advantage of advances in nanotechnology and miniaturised electronics to develop a host of biomedical devices that could monitor blood glucose for diabetics or keep a pacemaker battery charged so that it would not need replacing.

What`s needed to run these tiny devices is a minuscule power supply. Waste energy in the form or blood flow, motion, heat, or in this case respiration, offers a consistent source of power, say the engineers.

The team used an ion-etching process to carefully thin material while preserving its piezoelectric properties. With improvements, he believes the thickness can be controlled down to the submicron level.

Because PVDF is biocompatible, he says the development represents a significant advance toward creating a practical micro-scale device for harvesting energy from respiration.


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