Dr. Zhong Lin Wang, Georgia Institute of Technology (Podcast and Interview Transcript)

Dr. Wang: Yeah. Let me give you just this photograph, you can see that this is the structure we tried to replicate. What are our applications? The application involved is future optical driven computers. If you look at today’s computer, is electron driven. The electron has many, many advantages however there are several major disadvantage in compressed light. Number #1 is light travels 1000 times faster than electrons. Second one is that light generates little heat because electrons can generate lot of heat in your laptop in the circuits and so power consumption becomes a real concern. The third one is that the light has a very long traveling distance. So with these advantages and more importantly the frequency of light is very high so the operation speed is extremely high as well. So if we can replace use of photons to operate a device such as a transistor, a diode all of this kind of communication units, we can make much faster computers, much powerful computers and cost much less power to operate them. So if we can do this, we will be able to revolutionize the whole computer industry and also if we are able to revolutionize the computer industry, we will be able to impact many areas in our future life. So, we learn from biology how to build photonic devices effectively, how can we mimic them for the color, for the wavelength splitters all these kinds of applications. If we can do that that can really broaden our future prospects about new technology and new applications. This is the first example, I give you biomimic. The second one I want to give you another example is this, is the gecko foot. If you see this, this is the gecko, if you enlarge the gecko foot, this is gecko foot and you see in a gecko foot all these little tiny fibers, these fibers how small are they, these fibers are 1000 nanometer. Now how small is 1000 nanometer? It’s 100th of your hair width. If you can mimic this foot, what you try to build is you try to build up a Superman, Spider-Man. You see the little picture here? I have a picture here, the Spider-Man. We try to build this glove and this glove can attach with any surface, attach with any surface and it has adhesion force stronger than the gecko. But that’s not a easy task, is because you need to make such a structured mimic of the gecko foot that have a strong binding force that can walk on the ceiling, walk on the glass surfaces, climb high walls, used as kind of glove that’s another kind of biomimic we are trying to look at.

Lisa Padilla: Well I would say you are maybe really building super-heroes for the future, that’s really cool. That’s great Dr. Wang, and if you have got copies of those photos I can lock in, that would be great too.

Dr. Wang: I will send you a copy.

Lisa Padilla: Lovely. And let’s talk about the Nanogenerators because anybody I send around this article to just is blown away, you know wow, because they can start picturing applications for it themselves. And let’s say that I spend this week at basically a consumer software show and they are more consumer-oriented but maybe we can talk about exactly more interesting applications for the nanogenerators and spurs people’s imagination about changes in the way we are generating and consuming energy that would be great.

Dr. Wang: Okay. We look at energy generations from various angles. Again let me show you some photograph, you can see how we do it. In this piece of paper that you see what is the energy available to us. You see in a biological system, our heart beating is mechanical energy; natural wind, footsteps, noise, traffic noise, air-condition noise all these are mechanical energy and we have a bunch of this one around us. Just like I am talking to you, my sonic wave is energy, my body movement’s energy; there is tremendous resource energy around us. Can we have this energy to power my cellphone? Can we have this energy to power my iPod? So this is in our mind and think about applications first. I have my cellphone. If I walk in, in a dark area in the evening, how can I use my footstep to charge my cellphone or iPod? So this can provide a huge impact for the living style of many people. The question is how we are going to do it, how we are going to do it? So we develop a technology to harvest this energy, utilize Nanomaterials and the Nanomaterials we utilize, let me show you what this looks like. And first one, in this container, can you see something here? Well you may not see very well. This here, this is the fibers we use to make a lot of fabric. They are very tiny; you may not see this by your naked eyes very well but there is thousands of these fibers in this bunch. These fibers look like this. If you use a scanner, electron microscope, the fiber looks like this. You see this fiber? And we grow nano structure on the surface of this fiber you see. And as you look at enlarged this, you see this picture here. This is the nanostructure we grow on a surface. How large are these structures? This is 15 nanometer, it’s 1000th of your hair width. We utilize this. You see these fibers here, if we use this fiber if you make a fabric, if your body moves back and forth, these fibers swap one respect to the other one, then these two brush back and forth in this direction and this wire itself has a piece of electric that can convert mechanical energy into electricity. So we use nanomaterials to build on fibers and with use of fibers in the future we can make this, use the fabric and the fabric can harvest this energy and then when you make many, many fibers work together, you can have enough energy to power little electronic devices. So this, we try to utilize this in everyday life, everyday things we use for energy harvesting. So this will just give you an idea about our approach and how does it work.

3 Replies to “Dr. Zhong Lin Wang, Georgia Institute of Technology (Podcast and Interview Transcript)”

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