Research & Education

Feb 1, 2018

NEW FUNCTIONS, NEW HORIZONS

We've already written, about the emerging miracle material called graphene in this magazines' pages. It has proven itself to be the most amazing of all the new materials and science discoveries. And it seems like we didn't even start to understand its potential…

By MARCEL COMÈS

A new research from physicists at the University of Arkansas, United States, brought the investigators to the development of a nano-scale power generator, that could, potentially, use the movement of graphene molecules to generate pure, clean and unlimited energy.

The investigators called it a Vibration Energy Harvester, and they sustain that it is the ultimate evidence that two-dimensional materials could be a source of energy.

The idea came out from an accurate observation of some microscopic movements in sheets of graphene, which is made out of a single layer of carbon atmos. After laying the sheets over a copper scaffold, the team collected the images with a microscope.

Furthermore, the investigators narrowed their focus and separated each image into sub-images. What they found is an amazing discovery for actual Physics.

Their analysis showed that graphene was rippling, flipping up and down through a combination of small movements, and larger random movements known as Lévy Flights.

Why is this such an amazing discovery? Because it is the first time such movement is observed in an inorganic, atomic-scale system. The investigators concluded that these movements were due to ambient heat at room temperature.

It is already known that graphene atoms vibrate in tandem, which sets it apart from the random vibrations of the molecules of a liquid.

Paul Thibado, a professor of physics from the University of Arkansas and leader of the research team, said "this is the key to using the motion of 2D-materials as a source of harvestable energy. The tandem vibrations cause ripples in the graphene sheet from which we can harness energy using the latest technology".

This was before the investigators designed a tiny generator to do just that. The device has proved the investigators theories and it could lead to a drastic impact on the access to clean, unlimited energy, powered solely by the heat available in a simple room. But, the hypothetical applications of such discovery, could mean one of the biggest revolutions in the technologic world.

The team is currently working several tests to prove, without shadow of doubt, its efficiency and prove the wide range of technological possibilities.

One potential application is medical devices. Current medical implants often require batteries. And, while these batteries are long-lasting, a self-charging device that relies on microscopic graphene movement could allow devices to be both smaller and more effective in the long-run.

This could extend into a range of biomedical applications. Microscopic, self-powering capabilities could be remarkably helpful for hearing devices which often require frequent, expensive, bulky battery changes. Pace-makers and wearable sensors could also improve from such tech.

Graphene could also power non-medical wearable technologies. From "smart" graphene fashion to in-ear translators and wearable cryptocurrency, devices that blend with our organic shapes and movement are becoming increasingly popular and capable.

While this unique application of graphene is new and has yet to be fully proven, Thibado and his team will continue to explore the unique material's potential as a clean, unlimited energy source. Such a power source would be game-changing, as it could immeasurably advance technologies that are becoming more compatible with our own human biology.

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