Scientists Create World’s Thinnest Electrical Generator That’s Only 1 Atom Wide

Posted by on October 26, 2014 in Sci-Tech, Technology with 0 Comments
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 | Collective Evolution

Thinnest Electric GeneratorA group of engineers and researchers from both Columbia Engineering and the Georgia Institute of Technology revealed that they have made the first thin electric generator, that is remarkably only one atom thick. The results were uncovered in an article published online on October 15, 2014 in Nature by lead author Wenzhuo Wu of the Georgia Institute of Technology.

According to Science Alert, the engineers revealed that they can generate electricity from a layer of material made from molybdenum disulphide (MoS2), providing the first experimental evidence that the material is piezoelectric, or capable of producing electricity through pressure.

Exploring Piezoelectricity

Piezoelectricity is a well-known effect in which stretching or compressing a material causes it to generate an electrical voltage. The material MoS2 is also known for its flexibility and lightness, making this just the starting point of an endless number of opportunities involving it to be explored within the realm of electricity generation.

Professor of mechanical engineering at Columbia and co-leader of the research, James Hone said:

“This material—just a single layer of atoms—could be made as a wearable device, perhaps integrated into clothing, to convert energy from your body movement to electricity and power wearable sensors or medical devices, or perhaps supply enough energy to charge your cell phone in your pocket.”

Zhong Lin Wang was another co-leader of the project; a partner in creating the world’s first practical piezoelectric nanogenerator and a professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Material Science and Engineering. He worked with fellow professor James Hone to achieve the world’s thinnest electric generator. Professor Lin Wang commented:

“Proof of the piezoelectric effect and piezotronic effect adds new functionalities to these two-dimensional materials … the materials community is excited about molybdenum disulfide, and demonstrating the piezoelectric effect in it adds a new facet to the material.”

But according to researchers, the piezoelectric effect could only be achieved under certain conditions. The conditions include the need for an odd number of layers of the MoS2 in order to generate electricity – as an even number of layers won’t generate it.

Postdoctoral fellow Wenzhuo Wu and Professor Zhong Lin Wang. Photo Credit: Rob Felt.

The Devices Creation

The device was produced by placing thin layers of MoS2 on easily-bent plastic substrates and using optical techniques to define how the material’s crystal lattices were directed. In fact, the scientists defined MoS2 as one of a group of 2D semiconducting materials known as transition metal dichalcogenides, all of which are predicted to have comparable piezoelectric properties.

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