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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Emerging Science Note/Nanogeneration

Air Date: Week of April 20, 2007

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Georgia Tech Professor Zhong Lin Wang holds a sample nanowire array that can produce electrical current from mechanical energy. (Photo: Gary Meek/National Science Foundation)

Paige Doughty reports on a big development in an industry focused on the tiny.

Transcript

CURWOOD: Just ahead, colonizing the wastelands of Los Angeles. First this Note on Emerging Science from Paige Doughty.

[MUSIC: Franc Comstock “Out of This World” from Project Comstock: Music From Outer Space” (Mister Nobody – 1962]

DOUGHTY: Tiny devices that navigate the bloodstream to deliver medication have been the stuff of scientists' dreams at least since the days of the 60’s film Fantastic Voyage.

[Fantastic Voyage Excerpt Film Clip (20th Century Fox - 1966)]

But it’s not science fiction anymore. These days scientists can make devices as small as a billionth of a meter, or one nanometer, wide. But powering these "nanobots" remains a challenge.

Now researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology may have an answer. They've demonstrated a prototype nanogenerator.


Georgia Tech Professor Zhong Lin Wang holds a sample nanowire array that can produce electrical current from mechanical energy. (Photo: Gary Meek/National Science Foundation)

The tiny machine uses microscopic wires to capture the mechanical energy of environmental sources like sound waves and flowing liquid. The wires are only 1,000th the width of a human hair and as they flex with the motion they create a current. It’s a pretty small one but big enough to power nano-devices. Inventor Z.L. Wang says the generator is a “major milestone” for nanotechnology.

Some possible applications include biosensors that use the flow of blood as power and animal monitoring devices that need no power other than the animal’s own movement.

So, while they can’t promise you a Fantastic Voyage through the human body in a miniaturized submarine just yet. The scientists do say we might be one nano-step closer to the real application of the tiny technology of the future.

That’s this week’s note on emerging science, I’m Paige Doughty.

[MUSIC: Frank Comstock “Out Of This World” from Project Comstock: Music From Outer Space” (Mister Nobody – 1962)]

 

 

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