Electric Eel Inspires Novel Nanogenerator

Chinese scientists took a cue from electric eels to develop bionic stretchable nanogenerators that can be used underwater.

AsianScientist (Jul. 17, 2019) – In a study published in Nature Communications, researchers from the Beijing Institute of Nanoenergy and Nanosystems and the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences describe a stretchable nanogenerator that takes inspiration from electric eels.

The bionic stretchable nanogenerator uses technology that mimics the structure of ion channels on the cytomembrane of electric eels’ electrocytes. The mechanically-sensitive bionic channels rely on the stress mismatch between polydimethylsiloxane and silicone.

Like its eel counterpart, the nanogenerator can generate an open circuit voltage up to 10 V underwater. It can also generate an open circuit voltage up to 170 V under dry conditions. The nanogenerator maintained a stable output peformance even after 50,000 stretch tests thanks to its superior stretchability.

To prove the practicability of the technology, the researchers built an underwater wireless motion monitoring system based on the nanogenerator. Through this system, the motion signals under different swimming strokes can be synchronously transmitted, displayed and recorded.

In the future, the wearable nanogenerator can be used to collect mechanical energy from human motion and convert it into electrical energy to store in capacitors. The nanogenerator holds great promise for use in electronic skin, soft robots, wearable electronic products and implantable medical devices, the authors said.

The article can be found at: Zou et al. (2019) A Bionic Stretchable Nanogenerator for Underwater Sensing and Energy Harvesting.


Source: Chinese Academy of Sciences; Photo: Tan Puchuan.
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