Atomic motion of graphene generates unlimited power, study finds



  • Study shows graphene moves in a way similar to the behavior of electrons in a circuit
  • Physicists invent a circuit capable of converting the energy of graphene into electric current
  • The result of the study has become significant in the current search for a clean energy source

The world may soon have a clean, unlimited source of energy powered by a circuit that recovers electricity from the atomic motion of graphene. The technology comes in the form of small chips that have the potential to replace disposable power sources and save people the lifetime of buying small batteries.

A team of physicists from the University of Arkansas presented their invention of a circuit capable of capturing the thermal motion of graphene and converting it into electric current. The study, published in the journal Physical Review E, explored a discovery three years ago that first identified graphene as a strong candidate for energy harvesting.

For the present study, the team found that graphene moves in a manner similar to electrons in a circuit. How graphene moves is most noticeable at room temperature, the team said in the study. In fact, the thermal movement of graphene has shown signs that it can induce alternating current (AC) seen in electrical circuits.

Scientists have found an inexpensive and fast way to make graphene. In this photo, senior technologist Dariusz Czolak holds a piece of silicon carbide disc coated with a layer of graphene, obtained during the epitaxy process, in the laboratory of the Institute of Electronic Materials Technology (ITME) at Warsaw October 23, 2012. Photo: Reuters / Kacper Pempel

“A graphene-based energy harvesting circuit could be incorporated into a chip to provide clean, unlimited low-voltage power to small devices or sensors,” lead researcher Paul Thibado said in a press release.

Thibado’s discovery supported several studies questioning a more popular theory by physicist Richard Feynman. The latter asserted that the thermal motion of atoms is of no value when it comes to harvesting energy. At the same time, Thibado’s team relied on his theory resulting from the work of physicist Léon Brillouin. In an article published in 1950, Brillouin suggested that a two-way electric gate might be the solution to recovering energy from the thermal motion of an atom.

The next step for Thibado’s team is to find out how the electricity generated by graphene could be stored in a capacitor. If achieved, it will provide unlimited low voltage power for small devices or sensors. To achieve this goal, the team is looking for ways to reduce circuits.

“If millions of these tiny circuits could be built on a 1-by-1-millimeter chip, they could serve as a low-power battery replacement,” the team wrote in the study.

The study result has become important in today’s search for a clean energy source as the world bears the brunt of the hazardous waste piled up over the years.

Currently, the University of Arkansas has filed several patents for this technology. The promoters are looking for possible commercial applications in the United States and overseas markets.

battery life iphone graphene Graphene, a “miracle material” made from pure carbon 200 times stronger than steel, could mean better batteries in your devices thanks to a new process that increases its surface area. Photo: Yonsei University


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