Scientists at the University of Arkansas have just slammed the table in the world of clean energy. And it is that after an exhaustive investigation on graphene, they claim to have discovered a new source of energy. It doesn’t come from more than the simple movement of this material in response to ambient temperature, which this team believes could be used to harness clean, unlimited energy.
Put into practice, for which it would be necessary to apply existing nanotechnologies to capture energy, this discovery could “Transform our environment, by allowing any object to send, receive, process and store information, with the energy provided only by the ambient temperature” and by the movement of 2D materials such as graphene, as explained by the professor of physics at the University of Arkansas, Paul Thibado.
To access this potential new source of energy, you have to go into the background. Graphene is a 2D material which, as such, “Violates the laws of physics”. Despite this, its viability is explained by small fluctuations in the carbon atoms that make up graphene.
Thibado’s team focused on this ripple, closely observing the movement of the material through tunneling microscopes without initially being able to interpret a pattern.
Far from being discouraged by this, the team narrowed their scope to the point of reducing the exploration area to a single ripple. In reality, the parts analyzed were so small that up to 20,000 would fit on a pinhead. At this scale, and after taking measurements on a single point, he finally found the pattern of motion which, for the first time, was observed in an inorganic system on such a scale.
On top of that, if there is anything this discovery contributes to, it is to verify that graphene has natural ripples that reverse their curvature as atoms vibrate in response to room temperature. “This is the key to using the movement of 2D materials as a source of energy”, emphasizes Thibado.
From theory to practice with a new system: VEH.
Following this discovery, work continues. Yes indeed, Thibado received a provisional patent for the development of VEH (Vibration energy harvester or, translated into Spanish, energy collector by vibration). In this, he is already in use at the Naval Research Laboratory, where he is shaping a system that will include a negatively charged sheet of graphene suspended between two metal electrodes. So, when graphene spins upward, it will introduce a positive charge into the upper electrode. In turn, when you do it down, it will charge the lower one, so that an alternating current will be created from this movement.
However, this researcher goes further, since plans to experiment with other 2D materials to see if we can generate energy more efficiently this graphene which, he admits, is “Less than ideal for this purpose”. This is because the mechanism you have in mind works better with materials that are not conductive than with those that are, such as graphene.
While following this line, laboratory results showed that, although each wave is only 10 × 10 nanometers, can produce 10 pw of energy, which would allow a wristwatch to be powered without ever having to remove or recharge it. This, “It could have important implications for connecting physical objects to the digital world”, they assure the research team before anticipating that the new source of energy discovered has the muscle of “Transform everyday objects into small equipment, as well as to power sophisticated biomedical systems such as pacemakers, hearing aids or portable sensors”.
More information in Frontiers of research.