Machine Design

Backtalk 4/09/09

Nanotechnology lets hamsters generate electricity
The latest way to scavenge energy from vibrations or any mechanical disturbances is through nanogenerators developed at the Georgia Institute of Technology. They are constructed of piezoelectric materials such as zinc-oxide fashioned into wires 100 to 500 microns long and 100 to 800 nm in diameter. When the wires bend and relax, they create electricity. The wires are encapsulated in a flexible polymer and anchored at each end with an electrically conductive contact. A Schottky Barrier at one end of each wire controls current flow.

As a demonstration, researchers put four of these generators in a cloth harness that fit on a hamster. When the little rodent ran on a treadmill or simply scratched itself, the jacket would put out 0.5 nA. Researchers estimate it would take 250 of these four-generator units to power a Bluetooth headset. Long term, they envision the generators implanted in humans, activated by moving muscles or pulsing blood vessels, and the voltage powering nano-sized monitors for blood pressure and other vital signs.

Safety in the classroom
With the help of the Servo Patriot CNC Router, educators can now safely train students on prototyping and machining 3D objects. Designed by Techno Inc.’s Educational CNC Div., the compact, completely enclosed Patriot has a safety interlocking mechanism that prevents operation unless the lock is activated. Enclosing the machine promotes safety, minimizes noise, and supports proper dust collection.

Features of the Patriot include high-speed servomotors that provide accuracy in every cut and lead ball screws on all three axes, designed to last for the life of the machine.

Engineers and the flagpole
Ray & Bubba (mechanical engineers) were standing at the base of a flagpole, looking up. A woman walked by and asked what they were doing. “We’re supposed to find the height of the flagpole,” said Bubba, “but we don’t have a ladder.”

The woman took a wrench from her purse, loosened a few bolts, and laid the pole down. Then she took a tape measure from her pocket, took a measurement, announced, “Eighteen feet, six inches,” and walked away.

Ray shook his head and laughed. ‘Ain’t that just like a woman! We ask for the height and she gives us the length!’

Bubba and Ray are currently working for the government . . . and helping design the “stimulus package.”

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