Assessing Nanotechnology for Flexible, Motion Charged Electronics

Materials Studio

motion charged electronics are possible with nanotechnology
Flexible fitness trackers that charge based on movement are on the horizon. Image Source: Flickr User: familymwr

Nanotechnology is paving the road to a Star Trekian future, and the latest innovations in flexible electronics are no exception. In recent research, engineers at Michigan State University created a nano material device that serves many purposes. The paper-thin, flexible device acts as a loudspeaker and microphone and can convert between mechanical and electrical energy (and vice versa).1

This breakthrough builds on research which was published late last year. In an age where the Fitbit reigns supreme, a device that charges on its own while the wearer is moving will be vastly beneficial for complaints regarding poor battery life and a superb selling point in terms of its “green” factor. Technological innovations and exploring their future applications can easily be conducted using modern lab software which models future designs. Motion activated, self-charging electronics are surely on the horizon.

Trends in Tech This Year

After this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January a few interesting trends emerged.2 There is one common thread among these products and something that will be important for development moving forward: innovative materials. There is a strong desire to have smaller or thinner items with more capabilities.

While watches, phones and televisions shrink, durability, quality and battery life becomes a point of contention. Modelling and designing materials using innovative lab software will be crucial to successful research and manufacturing. For example, materials developers will need to take flexibility into account as thinner electronics will inevitably bend. Computer modelling can help researchers investigate how polymers and minerals react under continuous or repeated flex stress. Although technology is frequently being updated and consumers are motivated to buy a replacement item every 1-5 years, it will affect your bottom line and their confidence in your product if flexibility greatly influences functionality and durability.

Recent Advances in Flex-Tech

The paper-thin innovation out of MSU is flexible, scalable and converts mechanical to electric energy, and vice versa. In practical terms, this means that it can function as a loudspeaker, microphone, and convert the mechanical energy of motion into electrical charge for its batteries. This is a breakthrough in this industry. Yes, screens and tech had been decreasing in width, but they hadn’t had these added capabilities. Researchers touted that with these recent developments  they’ve opened the doors to being able to roll up a loudspeaker, put it in your pocket, then unroll it and stick it to a wall and give a speech over said speaker. Or, perhaps, you’ll be able to have a two-way conversation with your newspaper.3

With comprehensive computer modelling of this technology on a polymer basis and then assessing it from the macro-perspective innovative materials will translate smoothly into a consumer product. Another practical application I can see, is applying this technology to the aforementioned ultra-thin televisions. When attempting to go incognito, it would be idea if your sound system could also be well hidden. Looking back at niche items, fitness trackers, such as Fitbits, sometimes lose charge quickly or are hard to wear due to chafing. With this technology, it’s conceivable, that you could just wear a patch, or have the technology woven into your clothing. Modern lab software will help researchers truly assess the capabilities of this material and move the technology forward into the future.

BIOVIA Materials Studio is the key to rapidly advancing your research in this field. With extensive computer simulations, you can save you and your lab both time and R&D by actively pursuing your best leads, right off the bat. This recent breakthrough is a huge step in flexible, self-charging technologies. Using this novel information in combination with computer modelling capabilities can help to steer your research towards a deliverable product, faster. Please contact us today to learn more about how our software options can support the efforts of your lab.

  1. “Nanogenerator-based dual-functional and self-powered thin patch loudspeaker or microphone for flexible electronics,” May 16, 2017, https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms15310
  2. “The Tech Trends from CES 2017 That Will Actually Matter,” January 6, 2017, http://lifehacker.com/the-tech-trends-from-ces-2017-that-will-actually-matter-1790903186
  3. “How scientists turned a flag into a loudspeaker,” May 16, 2017, http://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2017/how-scientists-turned-a-flag-into-a-loudspeaker/