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Piezoelectric Nanogenerators for Mechanical Energy Harvesting
Keywords: ZnO, Nanogenerator, Mechanical energy harvesting
Vibration-based mechanical energy is the most ubiquitous and accessible energy source in the surroundings. Harvesting this type of energy offers a great potential for remote/wireless sensing, charging batteries, and powering electronic devices. Using piezoelectric nanostructures for mechanical energy scavenging could offer high energy conversion efficiency, long life time, and high sensitivity to low-level energy sources. Piezoelectric ZnO nanowires (NWs) have recently been demonstrated as a promising concept to harvest micro- and nano-scale mechanical energy from the surroundings. It is named nanogenerator. The operation principle relies on the bending of NWs by an external disturbance which creates piezoelectric potential along the deformed surfaces. The piezoelectric potential was predicted to be hundreds of milivolts per NW and the optimal power output per NW could reach a few nanowatts when it is under resonant oscillation. The first nanogenerator prototype was fabricated with vertically aligned ZnO NW arrays that were placed beneath a zigzag-shaped metal electrode with a small gap. In this design, all the NWs can be actuated simultaneously and continuously by ultrasonic waves, leading to the production of a continuous DC current. A textile fiber based nanogenerator has been developed for harvesting low-frequency vibration/friction energies. A piezoelectric thin film based nanogenerator was demonstrated to convert low-speed wind energy into electricity through the stimulated oscillation. These devices have the potential to fundamentally improve the mechanical energy harvesting capability with advanced nanostructure building blocks and compact designs, which might eventually lead to an effective power source for self-powered electronic systems with higher energy density, higher efficiency, longer life time, as well as lower cost.
Xudong Wang, Assistant Professor
University of Wisconsin - Madison
Madison, WI

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