‘Smart skin’ graphene coating can help harvest energy from flowing water

Researchers including one of Indian-origin have developed a new method to harvest energy from flowing water using a nanoengineered graphene coating.

The new technology only produces small amounts of electricity so it isn”t aimed at large scale electricity production, but rather at self-powered microsensors to be used in oil exploration.

“It”s impossible to power these microsensors with conventional batteries, as the sensors are just too small. So we created a graphene coating that allows us to capture energy from the movement of water over the sensors,” said study’s lead author Nikhil Koratkar, a professor in the Rensselaer School of Engineering.

The team”s discovery is a potential solution for a key challenge to realizing these autonomous microsensors, which will need to be self-powered. By covering the microsensors with a graphene coating, the sensors can harvest energy as water flows over the coating.

“We”ll wrap the graphene coating around the sensor, and it will act as a ”smart skin” that serves as a nanofluidic power generator,” Koratkar said.

For the study, Koratkar”s team also tested the energy harvested from water flowing over a film of carbon nanotubes. However, the energy generation and performance was far inferior to those attained using graphene, he said.

Looking at potential future applications of this new technology, Koratkar said he could envision self-powered microrobots or microsubmarines. Another possibility is harvesting power from a graphene coating on the underside of a boat.

The study has been published in the journal Nano Letters.

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