Graphene Vibrations: Clean, Limitless Energy Source?

By AlexanderAlUS (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

By AlexanderAlUS (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

In a big breakthrough, researchers from the University of Arkansas discovered an unusual property of graphene with several world-changing potential applications. They found that graphene vibrations could be used as a source of clean and potentially unlimited energy.

Graphene is a single slice of graphite, consisting of a lattice of carbon atoms that is just one atom thick. It has incredible strength and is also a good conductor of heat and electricity. However, in this research, scientists are interested in tapping energy from the random fluctuations of the carbon atoms in graphene. Using this surprising new resource, scientists could potentially generate an alternating current strong enough to indefinitely power a wristwatch.

Paul Thibado, the author of the research, said, “We’ve been studying a lot of different properties of graphene and at one point we decided to make it freestanding. We figured out what was happening as the membrane was shaking around – the atoms were shaking around and vibrating but then every now and then this local convex section of the membrane would flip its curvature over and become concave.”

For tapping the energy generated by these movements, scientists developed a device known as the Vibration Energy Harvester. Researchers were able to generate about 10 microwatts of power from a single 10-micron square of graphene.

Although the amount of power generated is very tiny, more than 20,000 of these squares can be fitted on the head of a pin. Graphene vibrations from that amount of material could feasibly power small electronic devices, such as a wristwatch, pacemakers, and hearing aids indefinitely.

Nidhi Goyal

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