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Environmental Energy Harvesting

Matrix-Assisted Energy Conversion in Nanostructured Piezoelectric Arrays

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

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Publications:

PDF Document PublicationNanoLetters, 2010, 10, 4901-4907. (466 KB)


Technology Marketing Summary

Energy harvesting is a developing technology that seeks to exploit naturally-occurring energy to power systems, rather than relying on external sources such as batteries.  Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has developed a method and a device for capturing the chemical energy in organic molecules and converting it into electrical energy. Vibration-based conversion has been commercialized to piezoelectric devices, and the LLNL team believes the time right for matrix-assisted energy conversion to fill a commercial niche as well.

Description

The best currently available nanogenerators can capture, convert, store, and use the energy inherent in piezoelectrics (mechanical/vibration energy), thermoelectrics (heat energy), and photovoltaics (solar and other light energy). The LLNL research team believes that matrix-assisted energy conversion is the next step in eliminating the need for batteries and other external power sources. In this system, polar organic molecules interact with ZnO nanowires to form a nanoconverter.

This self-powered platform relies on the response of a polymeric film to drive the piezoelectric effect in a nanowire array. The hybrid organic/inorganic platform begins with a vertically-aligned ZnO nanowire array embedded in an environmentally responsive organic polymer (PVC). This matrix sits atop a sapphire support substrate. The top of the set matrix is then oxygen plasma etched to expose about 50% of the nanowire tips, making them available as electrical contacts.

As a local heat source is applied to the device, it reacts differentially, generating a direct thermal-to-mechanical-to-electrical energy transformation; thus, open-circuit voltages of the device show a direct relationship with changes in temperature.

Benefits
  • Converts chemical energy into electrical energy
  • Generates output power suitable for running a variety of miniaturized and nano-scale devices
  • Exploits the chemical compounds in and the heat generated by the exhalation of human breat
Applications and Industries
  • Various sensor applications
  • Powered nanomachines
  • Piezoelectric voltage and current outputs powering cell phones, including smart phones
  • Cochlear implants
  • Artificial vision devices
  • Insulin control system(s) employing a nanosensor glucose monitor that informs an insulin dissemination pump 
  • Medical control devices such as pacemakers, left-ventricular-assistance units, and other monitoring devices
  • Wireless sensor networks that monitor the structural integrity of infrastructure such as bridges and dams, and the soundness of airplanes and buses
More Information

Patent applications have been filed.

Patents and Patent Applications
ID Number
Title and Abstract
Primary Lab
Date
Patent 8,344,597
Patent
8,344,597
Matrix-assisted energy conversion in nanostructured piezoelectric arrays
A nanoconverter is capable of directly generating electricity through a nanostructure embedded in a polymer layer experiencing differential thermal expansion in a stress transfer zone. High surface-to-volume ratio semiconductor nanowires or nanotubes (such as ZnO, silicon, carbon, etc.) are grown either aligned or substantially vertically aligned on a substrate. The resulting nanoforest is then embedded with the polymer layer, which transfers stress to the nanostructures in the stress transfer zone, thereby creating a nanostructure voltage output due to the piezoelectric effect acting on the nanostructure. Electrodes attached at both ends of the nanostructures generate output power at densities of .about.20 nW/cm.sup.2 with heating temperatures of .about.65.degree. C. Nanoconverters arrayed in a series parallel arrangement may be constructed in planar, stacked, or rolled arrays to supply power to nano- and micro-devices without use of external batteries.
Los Alamos National Laboratory 01/01/2013
Issued
Patent 8,778,563
Patent
8,778,563
Nanodevices for generating power from molecules and batteryless sensing
A nanoconverter or nanosensor is disclosed capable of directly generating electricity through physisorption interactions with molecules that are dipole containing organic species in a molecule interaction zone. High surface-to-volume ratio semiconductor nanowires or nanotubes (such as ZnO, silicon, carbon, etc.) are grown either aligned or randomly-aligned on a substrate. Epoxy or other nonconductive polymers are used to seal portions of the nanowires or nanotubes to create molecule noninteraction zones. By correlating certain molecule species to voltages generated, a nanosensor may quickly identify which species is detected. Nanoconverters in a series parallel arrangement may be constructed in planar, stacked, or rolled arrays to supply power to nano- and micro-devices without use of external batteries. In some cases breath, from human or other life forms, contain sufficient molecules to power a nanoconverter. A membrane permeable to certain molecules around the molecule interaction zone increases specific molecule nanosensor selectivity response.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory 07/15/2014
Issued
Technology Status
Technology IDDevelopment StageAvailabilityPublishedLast Updated
23911PrototypeAvailable07/26/201107/26/2011

Contact LLNL About This Technology

To: Annemarie Meike<meike1@llnl.gov>