A New Form of “Dog Power”?

November 10, 2008 at 5:00 pm Leave a comment

If you’re like me, there are times that you’ve wished you could somehow harness the incredible, bounding energy of your young dog and put it to use.

Oh sure, everybody knows about those common ways to do it like fetching things, chasing off garbagemen burglars and keeping the evil squirrel hordes at bay.  But what if you could quite literally harness your dog’s energy and use it to, say – power your laptop while you were blogging?

The idea may not be as far-fetched (pun intended) as we once thought. In today’s 60-second science podcast, Scientific American reports that nanoscale power plants can harvest waste energy from living bodies. The latest innovation in nanogenerators are zinc oxide wires that produce alternating current as they are stretched and released.

The entire device is covered by a flexible polymer, Wang adds, so it can be embedded in soft materials such as clothing or even muscles, meaning that getting your blood moving by going for a brisk walk or hitting the gym might one day get some electrons moving as well.

It’s amazing stuff and MIT Technology Review has published some interesting specifics:

“When you walk, you generate 67 watts. Your finger movement is 0.1 watt. Your breathing is one watt. If you can convert a fraction of that, you can power a device. From the concept we’ve demonstrated, we can convert 17-30 percent of that,” says Zhong Lin Wang, professor of materials science at Georgia Tech and one of the researchers of the work, published in the journal Science.

Oh. My. doG. If I generate 67 watts just by walking – image how much energy I could retrieve from my dogs in those wild bouts of morning chase and wrestling! 

More specifics from MIT:

Their results confirm a theory: zinc oxide nanowires will show a powerful piezoelectric effect, which is the production of electricity in response to mechanical pressure. Ordinarily the positive and negative charges of zinc and oxygen ions in these crystalline nanowires cancel each other out. But when the wires, which are chemically grown to stand on end on top of an electrode, bend in response to, say, a vibration, the ions are displaced. This unbalances the charges and creates an electric field that produces a current when the nanowire is connected to a circuit.

Although each nanowire alone produces very little power, Wang says, “with simultaneous output from many nanowires, we can generate high power,” enough to run a small medical implant. The work reported in Science involved only single nanowires, but Wang says his lab has already developed technology to harvest power from multiple nanowires.

So – I could equip my beasties with nanowire impregnated dog coats – and take the idea of the self-winding wristwatch to an entirely new level!  Another article from SciAm notes that the technology can also be used to harness energy from temperature gradients – so imagine the additional benefits of exercising your dog (who has a normal body temperature of 100o-102oF) outdoors on a cold day!

lraz1

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Entry filed under: amazing, dogs, science. Tags: , .

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