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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Emerging Science Note

Air Date: Week of January 13, 2012

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Scientists demonstrate material that could be used to capture energy from respiration. (Photo: Jim Beal)

Scientists in Wisconsin want to turn your nose into a generator. As Raphaella Bennin reports, harnessing the air current created by breath might create enough electrical current to power a small medical device such as a pacemaker.

Transcript

GELLERMAN: It’s Living on Earth, I'm Bruce Gellerman. Just ahead, why we have to give thanks to caterpillars. But first this Note on Emerging Science from Raphaella Bennin.

[SCIENCE NOTE THEME]

BENNIN: Take a deep breath. Do you feel energized? Pretty soon your breath could be recharging, not just your lungs, but a battery.

Today, when a pacemaker, or other medical device, is implanted in a person’s body it contains a battery- and that battery will eventually need to be replaced. Scientists at the University of Wisconsin are trying to help patients avoid that additional surgery by finding a way to power a medical device without a battery.

Researchers already know how to create electricity by exposing a piece of long skinny plastic to gusts of wind or even breezes. When the air forces the taught plastic to vibrate, an electrical charge is generated. The Wisconsin-based scientists are using that same principle with a piece of plastic so small and sensitive that the wind power of just breathing can produce enough electricity to keep a small medical device running.

The researchers hope to implant the plastic in the bridge of a patient’s nose. If all goes as planned, every time the patient laughs, inhales, or speaks the medical device is charged. And knowing there are no batteries to be replaced could help a lot of people breathe much easier. That’s this week’s Note on Emerging Science, I’m Raphaella Bennin.

[SCIENCE NOTE THEME]

 

Links

News report from the University of Wisconsin

A link to the abstract of the original article in the journal Energy and Environmental Science

 

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