The American Chemical Society is publishing in its Nano Letters journal that scientists have successfully developed a self-powered device that can transmit a radio signal over 30 feet. This can open the door to several new sensor technologies that require far less maintenance and will be able to operate independently from a dedicated power source, such as a battery.
The device uses special nanowires that can convert mechanical motion into electrical energy, via the piezoelectric effect. The device was too small for the nanogenerator to supply the energy for continuous operation, but the scientists instead have it maintain a standby mode while a charge is built up. Once enough energy is collected, the device is activated. If utilized in a monitoring device, the active mode would allow the devices sensors to detect the environment, analyze it for changes, and transmit the data to a receiving unit. Though the researchers only built the nanogenerator and transmitter, they were able to detect a 90MHz signal on a commercial AM/FM radio as much as 10 meters away, a promising accomplishment.
This discovery could be used in biosensor systems, environmental infrastructure monitoring, personal electronics, sensor networks, and national security. The inventors foresee networks of nano- or microscale devices acting together, even though a single device can operate alone.