They create a nano-substance capable of generating electricity from its environment


A team of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has discovered a new method for generating electricity through tiny carbon particles immersed in an organic solvent.

The interaction between carbon nanotubes and the liquid creates a current of energy of up to 0.7 volts per particle that would be enough to drive chemical reactions, such as the oxidation of alcohol - one of the most important reactions in the chemical industry, or even to manipulate micro or nanorobots, the scientists explain.

It is a new mechanism and this way of generating energy is completely new, says the study's lead author, Michael Strano, who calls the technology intriguing.

All you have to do is run a solvent through a bed of these particles, which triggers an electrochemical process, but without wires.

The method has greater flexibility than a large electrochemical reactor, as the particles can be very small and do not require external cables to drive the reaction.

The finding stemmed from other Strano research, carried out in 2010, in which the scientist showed that carbon nanotubes are capable of generating "thermoelectric waves" that move along the tubes and create a current of energy when a nanotube is covered with a layer of fuel.

On that occasion, Strano and his students also discovered another peculiarity: they realized that covering part of a nanotube with a polymer similar to Teflon resulted in an asymmetry, due to which electrons flowed from the coated to the uncoated part. , generating an electric current. And to extract those electrons, it was simply necessary to place the particles in an electronegative solvent.

The researchers created energy-generating particles by forming a kind of sheet of paper with carbon nanotubes. They then coated one side of each sheet with a Teflon-like polymer and cut them into 250 by 250-micron particles. By dipping the particles into an organic solvent, they noticed that it stuck to the uncoated surface of the particles and began to extract electrons.

Strano explained that the solvent removes electrons, while the system tries to balance itself and moves them. There is no sophisticated battery chemistry. It's a particle, you put it insolvent and it starts to generate an electric field.

Now, the researchers plan to take advantage of this unusual reaction to create polymers using carbon dioxide as a starting material. Strano's team has already managed to create polymers that use it together with solar energy to regenerate.

What we like about this mechanism is the fact that you can take energy, at least in part, from the environment, concludes Strano.

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