Thin film harvests energy from water

Researchers in the United States have been working on a way of harvesting energy from flowing water. A team from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York has created a […]

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By Vicky Ellis

Researchers in the United States have been working on a way of harvesting energy from flowing water. A team from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York has created a thin coating that could generate small amounts of electricity if water runs over it.

The study, funded by a $1million grant, created 85 nanowatts of power by running water across a tiny sheet of nanomaterial graphene that measured 0.03mm by 0.015mm. Graphene is a single-atom-thick sheet of carbon atoms, which are arranged like a chain-link fence.

Professor Nikhil Koratkar, who led the team, said the discovery could be used to help in the search for oil, because the energy created could power microsensors put into water or other fluids and pumped down into a potential oil well.

Prof Koratkar said: “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.”

Oil exploration could be made cheaper and more accurate with this technology, he suggested, adding that he could see it being used in self-powered microrobots or microsubmarines.