Nanogenerator and Nano-Piezotronics

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Wang, Z. L. (Zhong Lin)
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Developing wireless nanodevices and nanosystems is of critical importance for sensing, medical science, environmental/infrastructure monitoring, defense technology and even personal electronics. It is highly desirable for wireless devices to be self-powered without using battery. This is a new initiative in today’s energy research for mico/nano-systems in searching for sustainable self-sufficient power sources [1]. It is essential to explore innovative nanotechnologies for converting mechanical energy, vibration energy, and hydraulic energy into electric energy that will be used to power nanodevices. We have invented an innovative approach for converting nano-scale mechanical energy into electric energy by piezoelectric zinc oxide nanowire arrays [2]. The operation mechanism of the nanogenerator relies on the piezoelectric potential created by an external strain; a dynamic straining of the nanowire results in a transient flow of the electrons in the external load due to the driving force of the piezopotential. We have developed the nanogenerator from fundamental science, to engineering integration and to technological scale-up [3-6]. As today, a gentle straining can output 1.2 V from an integrated nanogenerator [6], using which a self-powered nanosensor has been demonstrated [6]. A commercial LED has been lid up [7]. This is a key step for developing a totally nanowire-based nanosystem [6]. Alternatively, by substituting the gate voltage in a field effect transistor (FET) with the piezopotential creating by an external strain, we have fabricated a series of devices that rely on a coupling between semiconductor and piezoelectric properties and are controlled/tuned by externally applied force/pressure, such as diode, strain sensor and strain-gated logic unites, which are a new field called piezotronics [8]. A three way coupling among piezoelectricity, semiconductor and photonic excitation has demonstrated the piezo-phototronic effect [9].
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