A piece of silicone rubber imprinted with super-thin material that generates electricity when flexed could provide a source of power for mobile and medical devices (Image credit: Frank Wojciechowski)
Engineers from Princeton University have developed power-generating rubber films that could be used to harness natural body movements such as breathing or walking in order to power electronic devices such as pacemakers or mobile phones. The material, which is composed of ceramic nanoribbons embedded onto silicone rubber sheets, generates electricity when flexed and is highly efficient at converting mechanical energy into electrical energy.
Its developers say shoes made of the material could harvest the pounding of walking or running to power mobile electrical devices and, when placed against the lungs, sheets of the material could use the raising and falling breathing motions of the chest to power pacemakers. This would negate the current need for surgical replacement of the batteries which power the devices.
Plus, because the silicone is biocompatible and is already used for cosmetic implants and medical devices, “the new electricity-harvesting devices could be implanted in the body to perpetually power medical devices, and the body wouldn’t reject them,” said Michael McAlpine, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, at Princeton, who led the project to develop the material.