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Someday a transparent, flexible material (pictured above) just an atom thick could power our electronics, according to a paper published to be published in Nature today. And the best part is it could generate electricity from walking, running and other everyday motions.
“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,” James Hone, who co-led a team of researchers from Columbia University and Georgia Institute of Technology, said in a release.
The two dimensional material, which is known as molybdenum disulfide (MoS2), is pretty finicky about generating electricity. If it is stacked in an even number of layers, it doesn’t do anything. But use an odd number and stretch it in the right direction, and the electricity will start flowing.
Devices that produce electricity from movement already exist. A device called Ampy, for example, was announced just last week. The pocket-sized device can provide three hours of charge for a mobile phone if you carry it around all day. It is not thin or flexible enough to be incorporated into fabric, the way MoS2 is.
Researchers first theorized that MoS2 would create electricity when stretched or compressed last year. This is the first time it has actually been demonstrated. It’s not the only 2D material theorized to have the ability, so the team is now interested in looking into the alternatives.
“This is the first experimental work in this area and is an elegant example of how the world becomes different when the size of material shrinks to the scale of a single atom,” Hone said in the release. “With what we’re learning, we’re eager to build useful devices for all kinds of applications.”