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Using water to create nanoscale power cells

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Geplaatst op 23 april 2009 - 04:50

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Nearly every issue of major science journals contains new developments in nanotechnology which may eventually help us develop nanoscale medical implants, sensors, pollution scavengers, and other devices. In designing nanomachines, one has to think about how to power them. Batteries or other external power sources would add to the cost and size of the devices, so it would be preferable if they could be self-powered, having their own power cell or some power-harvesting mechanism.

Several years ago, scientists found that they could create an electric current by pushing water through a single-walled carbon nanotube (SWCNT)—the direction of the electric potential along the tube could even be flipped by changing the course of the water flow. Last year, Chinese scientists led by Lianfeng Sun managed to make hydroelectric power converters based on this phenomenon, which led them to suggest that "SWNTs can be exploited as unique, tunable molecular channels for water and might find potential application in nanoscale energy conversion."

However, before it’s sensible to look into further applications, it’s necessary to figure out how water and SWCNTs generate hydroelectric voltage. Without a basic understanding of the mechanisms involved, it would be difficult to design an efficient power-harvesting technique.

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