Energy harvesting and storing techniques are sought after in many applications where long-term, remote, and self-powered operation are required. These mechanisms are often integrated in small devices such as sensors, electronics, and radiofrequency devices. In this regard, nanostructures including carbon nanotubes, metal and oxide nanowires, and superlattice and branched heterostructures, have recently gained attention owing to their exceptional properties and potential for chemical functionalization and hierarchical material integration. While progress is being made on both fronts, the ability to engineer individual structures far outpaces the ability to assemble the structures in a hierarchical or directed fashion.
Researchers at the University of Michigan have developed a hybrid nanostructure for integrated energy harvesting and storage in microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) devices. The new nanomaterial architecture consists of a hybrid array of uniformly-mixed vertically-aligned nanostructures. This architecture offers potential to increase the energy transduction performance of thin films, due to a high density of nanoscale gaps and/or junctions between nanostructures of different materials, along with uniform electrical and mechanical contact to the ends of the structures. Moreover, combination of electrically conductive carbon nanotubes and piezoelectric zinc oxide nanowire enables generation of electrical voltage upon deformation.
Applications and Advantages
- microsystems for military applications
- electronic devices
- structural composites
- radiofrequency devices
- wearable/ implantable devices
- materials suitable for desired energy harvesting and storage
- compatibility of nanostructures and related processing conditions with the fabrication process for the surrounding device