Scientists at IIT Kharagpur have used waste onion skins to develop an inexpensive device that can generate ‘green’ electricity from body movements and may power pacemakers, smart pills and wearable electronics. According to research conducted at the institute, since onion skin was found to have piezoelectric properties, it is perfect to use in the nano-generator developed by the scientists.
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If a material is piezoelectric, it means that it can generate a current when a slight pressure is applied. Nano-generators are made out of this piezoelectric material and can generate electricity to power small devices. As they are barely the width of a hair, the lightest pressure can create a current, and they convert kinetic energy into electrical energy.
Researchers estimate that the device could be manufactured easily at a cost of less than a rupee, with existing technologies. This would make the system accessible to people the economically weaker sections of the society. To build the device, the researchers coated an onion skin with a thin layer of gold and added copper wires with silver paste. It was then encapsulated in polymers. The nanogenerator is capable of harvesting several types of mechanical energies, including body movements, wind flow and even machine vibrations. The device developed by researchers has an output of 18 volts and can turn on 30 green LEDs under repeated human finger touch response, according to the study published in the journal NanoEnergy. The device could withstand repeated cycles of pressing and releasing for up to five months. The voltage generated remained almost unchanged even after long cycles, indicating good mechanical stability of the device for biomedical applications. The implications of this breakthrough include a reduce in biowaste, and the potential to power pacemakers, smart pills, and portable devices such as watches.
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