We are one very big step closer to sending robots into our body for long-term, complex missions. New nano-generators can turn mechanical energy - like that of flowing blood - into electricity needed to power nanobots.

The tiny generators are the brainchild of Dr. Yong Shi, a professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department at Stevens Institute of Technology. They make use of a technology known as piezoelectric nanofibers, which are minuscule wires that are able to harness nearby mechanical energy (basically the energy of motion) and turn it into electrical energy. Each wire measures half a millimeter long and just 60 billionths of a meter in diameter.


Dr. Shi place a number of these nanofibers on a piece of silicon to create the generators. They were able to achieve a voltage of 1.63 volts and generated .03 MicroWatts. That may not sound like a lot, but it won't take much refinement before these nano-generators are capable of powering anything from portable devices and wireless electronics to biosensors and nanobots. One of the best possible places to use these nano-generators is in the human body, where blood constantly flowing throughout the body would provide tons of mechanical energy for these generators to harvest.


One of Dr. Shi's colleagues, Biomedical Energy Director Athur Ritter, explains where they hope to take teh technology from here:

"One of the major limitations of current active implantable biomedical devices is that they are battery powered. This means that they either have to be recharged or replaced periodically. Dr. Shi's group has demonstrated a technology that will allow implantable devices to recover some of the mechanical energy in flowing blood...to power smart implanable biometical devices."

"The fact that his technology is based on nano-structures makes possible power supplies for nano-robots that can exist in the blood stream for extended periods of time and transmit diagnostic data, take samples for biopsy and/or send images wirelessly to external data bases for analysis."


[Nano Letters]