Scientists have created the world’s smallest electric generator at just one atom thick

A team of scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed the world’s smallest electric generator. At just one atom thick, the device is made from molybdenum disulphide (MoS2), which is a clear, flexible material that opens up huge possibilities for the future of electricity generation.

The new electrical generator is an example of piezoelectricity, or electricity that’s generated from pressure. Piezoelectric materials have had almost an infinite amount of potential uses, especially in the nanotechnology field, but until now, scientists have struggled to make them flexible and thin enough to be practical.


Shown is a sample of the material that was tested as part of the research. Image: Rob Felt/Georgia Tech.

In order to test whether or not MoS2 would be piezoelectric on the atomic scale, the team behind the technology flaked off thin layers of the MoS2 onto a flexible substrate with electrical contact. Because the flakes were created in this way, each had a different number of layers. While some were one atom thick, others were eight atoms thick.

When the scientists tested the piezoelectric response of the flakes by stretching the materials and measuring the flow of electrons into an external circuit, they discovered that the material generated electricity only when it had an odd number of layers. When it had an even number of layers, no current was generated.

Impressively, a single one-atom-thick layer of the material could generate 15 millivolts of electricity when stretched. The team also found that as the number of layers increased, the amount of current generated decreased until the material grew too thick and stopped producing electricity. When it comes to using this material, less truly is more.

Even with the material’s strange conditions for use, having a tiny generator is nothing short of astounding, as the word “generator” usually doesn’t go hand in hand with something so lightweight and flexible. With more research, power sources may not have to be so bulky anymore, which means that in the future, complex technologies may be powered up with fewer materials, creating even more possibilities.

Story via Tech Times.

Written for Electronic Products.

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