Good vibrations: turning sound into energy

  • Materials scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have developed a technology that harnesses noise or random vibrations in the atmosphere, and uses them to transform water into energy.
  • The vibrations flex two nanocrystals (zinc oxide and barium titanate) placed in water, which catalyses a chemical reaction and splits water into hydrogen and oxygen. The resultant hydrogen fuel is far more stable than electricity, meaning it can be stored more effectively.
  • Applications may include powering devices that require small energy inputs, e.g. mobile phones and streetlights, making them completely self-sufficient.
  • This method (termed peizoelectro-chemistry) requires a small amount of power, yet extracts an impressive 18% efficiency with the nanocrystals, higher than most experimental energy sources.

The technology might prove a simple, efficient method to recycle waste energy. Whilst the technology is most likely to be applied in smaller technologies, the cumulative energy savings globally could be large. However, predictions for overall energy savings are currently undefined.

For more information, visit: http://tinyurl.com/8a5r2hp; http://tinyurl.com/7ee2tk8

About Joao Delgado

Joao is a Research Fellow in Futures Research and leads on medium-large scale futures projects at CERF. Amongst other projects, he has led the development of scenarios for the future of river basin management for the Environment Agency. His professional interests include veterinary science, epidemiology, risk and systems thinking.
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