A new stretchy tool generates electrical energy with tiny magnets
We have often reported on piezoelectric materials capable of converting stress into electricity, but until now these materials have had limited capabilities, such as the inability to produce enough energy to be viable or to function if they are a bit wet. Everything is about to change.
A new invention consisting of Magnetoelastic generators, composed of a suspended platinum-catalyzed silicone polymer matrix inside which are nanoscale neodymium-iron-boron magnets, have been designed to yield flexible self-powered bioelectronic devices and super efficient hoses.
The technology uses the movements of the human body to power wearable and implantable diagnostic sensors. Best of all, it works even when wet, meaning rain or sweat won’t turn it off.
“Our discovery opens a new avenue for practical energy, sensing and therapeutic technologies centered on the human body and can be connected to the Internet of Things,” said Jun Chen, assistant professor of bioengineering at the University of California. at the Samueli School of Engineering in Los Angeles, in a statement.
“What makes this technology unique is that it allows people to stretch and move comfortably when the device is pressed against human skin, and because it relies on magnetism rather than electricity, humidity and our own sweat do not compromise its effectiveness.”
Chen and his team further reported that the magnetoelastic effect observed with their invention was four times greater than that of rigid metal alloy devices of the same size.
In fact, the device generated electrical currents of 4.27 milliamps per square centimeter. This is 10,000 times better than previous conventional technologies.
And many other similar technologies are tested. Unfortunately, they lack the practicality that Chen’s device offers, either by being too rigid to bend enough to compress against the skin, or by relying on static electricity which does not generate enough energy and suffers from humidity.
Meanwhile, Chen’s portable magnetoelastic generators continued to operate at higher levels even after being soaked in artificial sweat for a week. Chen and his team have now filed a patent for the technology and are eager to discover useful new applications.