Research Highlights

Tiny vitamin-based device generates electricity

doi:10.1038/nindia.2019.31 Published online 14 March 2019

Researchers have developed a vitamin-based composite material that can be used to fabricate a tiny device capable of generating electricity1.

This highly sensitive device can harness energy from walking, throat movements, wind, vehicle motions and falling raindrops and convert them into electricity that can light up light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and even charge batteries. 

Most of the currently available energy-storing devices are expensive and they end up generating harmful electronic waste.

In search of a green and cheap energy-harvesting device, scientists from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur in India and the Pohang University of Science and Technology in Pohang, Republic of Korea, fabricated a device using a composite material made up of riboflavin, a vitamin and a flexible non-reactive polymer.

The researchers, led by Bhanu Bhusan Khatua, then tested the efficiency of the device in harnessing energy from various sources and converting it into electricity. The device was highly sensitive towards very small external forces such as touching, bending and air-flow. When subjected to such forces, it generated an output voltage that, on increasing the forces, increased. 

Since the device is highly sensitive to various external pressures, it can generate electricity by sensing minute pressure generated by pulse rate. It then uses this electricity to charge a capacitor that can power up implantable biomedical devices such as pacemakers. A single device produced electricity that lit up more than 100 green LEDs.

The device can also generate electricity by tapping the energy of vocal cord vibration during gargling, swallowing and speech, says lead author Sumanta Kumar Karan. “It is so sensitive that it could even detect a vocal cord problem of a patient.”


References

1. Karan, S. K. et al. Designing high energy conversion efficient bio-inspired vitamin assisted single-structured based self-powered piezoelectric/wind/acoustic multienergy harvester with remarkable power density. Nano. Energy. 59, 169-183 (2019)