Nanogenerators Promise 'Power Suits' of the Future

In the seemingly never ending quest to improve our personal electronics experience our clothes can now be used to power our gadgets

1 min read
Nanogenerators Promise 'Power Suits' of the Future

I am always a little amazed at the length we are willing to go to improve our personal electronics. Whenever I see the latest nanotech research that will improve our gadgets I'm reminded of Nokia’s and Cambridge University’s demonstration of plastic electronics that proposed a flexible mobile phone. I could never quite get my head around why we would want a mobile phone that you could bend when what we really want is a phone in which the battery doesn’t run out after a few hours.

In the latest research along the lines of improving our personal electronics experience an international research team led by Professor Liwei Lin at the University of California Berkeley has developed nanofibers that possess piezoelectric properties and can be woven into the textiles of clothing. The idea is that as you move about the bending and stretching will be cause the piezoelectric to generate electricity that can be used to power your personal electronics.

While other research teams have made this type of generator on the nanoscale, they did so with inorganic materials that were brittle and easy to break. The Berkeley team made the fibers with an organic material that are not only more flexible than their inorganic cousins but easier to produce in significant quantities.

While the article I reference above describing the research mentions powering hand-held electronics, I suppose it’s possible that ski jackets with MP3 players already built in will find this new energy source a nice alternative.

Despite this I am still a little confused as to why I would want this, but sometimes these decisions are based less on practicality and more on ineffable qualities such as “fashion”.

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3D-Stacked CMOS Takes Moore’s Law to New Heights

When transistors can’t get any smaller, the only direction is up

10 min read
An image of stacked squares with yellow flat bars through them.
Emily Cooper

Perhaps the most far-reaching technological achievement over the last 50 years has been the steady march toward ever smaller transistors, fitting them more tightly together, and reducing their power consumption. And yet, ever since the two of us started our careers at Intel more than 20 years ago, we’ve been hearing the alarms that the descent into the infinitesimal was about to end. Yet year after year, brilliant new innovations continue to propel the semiconductor industry further.

Along this journey, we engineers had to change the transistor’s architecture as we continued to scale down area and power consumption while boosting performance. The “planar” transistor designs that took us through the last half of the 20th century gave way to 3D fin-shaped devices by the first half of the 2010s. Now, these too have an end date in sight, with a new gate-all-around (GAA) structure rolling into production soon. But we have to look even further ahead because our ability to scale down even this new transistor architecture, which we call RibbonFET, has its limits.

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