Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have crafted tiny nanowires that generate electricity when they vibrate. Just like the quartz crystal in a watch, the zinc-oxide nanowires are piezoelectric, which means bending causes them to produce an electrical charge.
Only 20-40 billionths of a meter in diameter, each fiber partners with millions of others to form a nanogenerator capable of producing significant amounts of energy from the slightest activity. According to the researchers, motions from body movement, the stretching of muscles and even the flow of liquids should be able to generate electric charges in the wires--perfect for implantable medical devices, "smart" apparel and a variety of other applications.
Supported by the National Science Foundation Division of Materials Research Metals program, NASA and DARPA, physicist Zhong Lin "ZL" Wang and graduate student Jinhui Song report their findings in the Apr. 14, 2006, issue of the journal Science.