Earlier this week I offered up a headline for recent research into the memristor in which I referred to the memristor as the “Fourth Fundamental Circuit Element”.
I was quickly taken to task for this in the comments section. I used the phrase based on how I have seen it characterized in other articles. I wanted to put its discovery in what I thought was its appropriate context of importance. However, the commenter suggested that this was just marketing copy that actually was detracting from the discovery’s impact. Fair enough, if or when I have the opportunity to write about the memristor again I will not use that phrase.
I bring this all up to highlight the headline I am using for this entry and how It stands in contrast, I hope, to the headline to the story that inspired it: “Self-Powered Nanotechnology Closer to Reality”. When I first saw this headline I really had no idea what it could be, but was intrigued enough to click on the link to the article—I guess that was the point. I expected to see something along the lines of what caused my recent confusion over headlines that trumpeted “MIT researchers discover a new energy source: nanotechnology”.
And that’s what I found, more or less. What we got was the work of Professor Zhong Lin Wang, Director of the Center for Nanostructure Characterization at Georgia Tech whose work on exploiting the piezoelectric qualities of zinc oxide nanowires to power small devices through human movement I have covered on this blog.The author of the blog relates her meeting with the charismatic Professor Wang while at a conference and discovering that his highly touted research had seemingly overcome the low voltage problems of his previous devices. He was now making devices that produced 2.4 volts, which as the author notes makes possible “integrating a charge-storage device that will make it possible to regulate the voltage going into the sensors for better control of measurements.” Wang concurs and even says that is his next bit of research. All in all a nice bit of reporting, but I can’t help but think that the headline while intriguing is hopelessly muddled. I believe the headline here at the very least is free from any marketing copy.
In any case, here’s a video from CNN about six months ago in which Professor Wang exhibits his devices.
Dexter Johnson is a contributing editor at IEEE Spectrum, with a focus on nanotechnology.