Energy-harvesting rubber sheets could power pacemakers, mobile phones



Yi Qi, a postdoctoral researcher, holds a piece of silicone rubber imprinted with super-thin material that generates electricity when flexed. The technology could provide a source of power for mobile and medical devices.

Power-generating rubber films developed by Princeton engineers could harness natural body movements such as breathing and walking to power pacemakers, mobile phones and other electronic devices. 

The material, composed of ceramic nanoribbons embedded onto silicone rubber sheets, generates electricity when flexed and is highly efficient at converting mechanical energy to electrical energy. Shoes made of the material may one day harvest the pounding of walking and running to power mobile electrical devices. Placed against the lungs, sheets of the material could use breathing motions to power pacemakers, obviating the current need for surgical replacement of the batteries that power the devices.

A paper on the new material was published online Jan. 26 in Nano Letters, a journal of the American Chemical Society. Michael McAlpine, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, led the research. His team included postdoctoral research Yi Qi , graduate student Noah Jafferis and undergraduate Christine Lee, as well as Habib Ahmad of the California Institute of Technology and Kenneth Lyons Jr., an undergraduate at Morehouse College who worked in McAlpine's lab.