Nanogenerators: Huge First Step for Battery-less World

a nanogenerator imageWhen the iPhone hit the market, there was little attempt at touch-based interactive devices.

The iPhone, in seemingly short order, fostered a competition that brought about a furious series innovation and a multitude of imitators. The newest addition to Apple’s arsenal of innovations promises to include nanogenerator powered technology to future generations of iPhones.

This means no more batteries. Many have high hopes that this could finally spell the future end of batteries and their harmful effects to the environment.

If you’re not familiar with the technology behind “Nanogenerators“, they are made up of tiny chips that generate power by using the body’s movement, or kinetic energy, to recharge an electronic device. This could also mean that a user could charge a device by simply holding it near their heart.

This innovation, devised by Dr. Zhong Lin Wang from the Georgia Institute of Technology, hopes that it will spark further innovation and lead to a world without batteries. In as soon as five years, this device could permeate the market and bring about a whole new series of technological breakthroughs that will ultimately replace the need for alternative power sources for devices which could be powered by kinetic energy.

Though it’s likely that batteries will be around for many years to come, it’s hoped that most handheld devices will begin to implement this technology in order to bypass the need for external sources of power. Batteries as power sources, though they’ve gotten much better, are terrible for the environment and when improperly disposed of, leak harmful chemicals into the soil.

People sometimes store batteries in places like StorageMart or those rental storage units, and sometimes the batteries leak.

But there are ways to dispose of batteries properly. People often cite not having the space to recycle but if they take the time to look for battery recycling in their area (at least in the US and most of Europe), they could find a place to have their old batteries disposed of properly.

Traditional batteries contain heavy metals such as mercury, lead, cadmium, and nickel. All of these are considered contaminants to the environment and when they interact with the soil, can poison the ground and groundwater sources, sometimes making the affected area unusable for years. When batteries are incinerated, which often happens in garbage dumps, they release vaporized metal into the air.

Though batteries are fine if they are properly disposed of, the majority of batteries are simply thrown in the garbage and end up in landfills. It’s when the seepage makes it’s way into water supplies that it gets even worse. That’s why Dr. Wang’s research has been received with such excitement. Not just because of it’s ability to improve the environmental but also it’s ability to help make devices cheaper by not having to replace their batteries.

The Nanogenerator power system is still in the prototype mode.

It’s not likely to be included as a feature on the iPhone coming out later this year or early next. So far two generators linked together apply the same about of energy as two double A batteries.

They will soon be able to power a standard phone. In five years, or hopefully sooner, the market will begin to fully understand the full range of applications this single innovation will have for the greater community.

Here’s to a greener future.

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