Nano-piezotronics to enable new "body electronics"

Atlanta (GA) - Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology (GIT) say they have developed a "new class of electronic components" that could lead the way to bendable and battery-less electronic devices inside the human body - which could monitor blood flow, organ activity and other vital signs.

The technology described by GIT scientists is dubbed "nano-piezotronics," which takes advantage of the semiconducting and piezoelectric characteristics of zinc oxide nanowires. So far, these properties have been used for field-effect transistors, diodes, sensors as well as nanogenerators that can produce controllable current by bending and releasing zinc oxide nanowires and nanobelts. According to a press release, nano-piezotronics can bend and adapt to the shape of their environment; to create usable current, nanogenerators take advantage of their environment and convert, for example, kinetic energy or heat into electricity. As a result, researchers believe that this technology could enable a new generation of body electronics - for example self-sustaining pacemakers that do not need batteries or nano-electronics that measure blood flow and temperatures down to the molecule level.

The GIT researchers said that nano-piezotronics tolerate a significant degree of deformation without damage, while creating a large volume density of power output. In addition, zinc oxide materials are biocompatible, allowing their use in the body without toxic effects.

It is unclear at this time, when this technology could be ready for real life use.