Energy harvesting device developed at Tech named one of Ecofriend.org’s Top Ten of 2010
An innovative energy harvesting device designed and fabricated at Louisiana Tech University, has been named one of Ecofriend.org’s Top Ten renewable energy technology breakthroughs of 2010. Dr. Long Que, assistant professor of electrical engineering at Louisiana Tech, and his research team developed the device which allows microscale electronic devices to harvest their own wasted energy. The work was detailed in a paper published in the September 2010 edition of Applied Physics Letters. According to its website, Ecofriend.org focuses on highlighting the latest green technologies and lifestyle trends and to help combat global warming among a host of other environmental problems. It also seeks to inform and educate consumers who love to possess the latest gadgets and products available on the market and who are also concerned about the environment around them. The technology developed at Tech uses a cantilever made out of piezoelectric material – material capable of converting distortions to itself into electrical energy – and is coated with a carbon nanotube film on one side. When the film absorbs light and/or thermal energy, it causes the cantilever to bend back and forth repeatedly, causing the piezoelectric material to generate power as long as the light and/or heat source is active. “The greatest significance of this work is that it offers us a new option to continuously harvest both solar and thermal energy on a single chip, given the self-reciprocating characteristics of the device upon exposure to light and/or thermal radiation,” said Que. “This characteristic might enable us to make perpetual micro/nano devices and micro/nanosystems, and could significantly impact the wireless sensory network.” In their experiments, Que’s research team showed that the device could generate enough power to adequately operate some low-power microsensors and integrated sensors. One of the most unique and innovative aspects of this energy harvesting system is its ability to “self-reciprocate” – the perpetual production of energy without needing to consume other external energy sources. Que believes that, in the future, the device could be used to power a number of different nano and microsystems such as implanted biomedical devices or remotely located sensors and communication nodes.